No singing, cliffhangers help American Idol’s ratings rebound and beat Big Bang Theory

American Idol may have figured out the secret to its ratings slide: replace singing with illness and life-or-death cliffhangers.

Thursday’s episode, on which there were no performances and which the mystery of whether Symone Black was killed by her fall or not, increased its viewership from last week’s final audition episode: Fox’s research division reported that the show was up four percent among adults 18 to 49, and 3 percent in overall viewers, going from 17.4 to 17.9 million. That was enough to beat the Big Bang Theory, which has been beating the Fox competition recently.

Hollywood week is my favorite part of the entire process, and although some were upset about the lack of singing, I didn’t really notice or care. The episode was heavy on the melodrama, stoked by decisions producers made (like forcing them to abandon their friends and form groups with people they didn’t know) and also the contestants’ behavior, from fighting for spots to illness. But that was pretty entertaining, and gave moments far more memorable than any we’ve seen so far this season–such as when one contestant screamed, “Get your fucking ass up here if you want to sing ‘Joy to the World.'”

The Sing-Off loses its star

Ben Folds

NBC's super-fun December a capella singing competition The Sing-Off is returning, but without its star judge, Ben Folds, and only as a two-hour special. Those are really depressing changes for a series that proved itself to be a super-fun show when it returned last December.

A film director talks about becoming a reality TV character

Anna Martemucci

What is it like to have your life turned into reality TV? Director Anna Martemucci, one of the two directors featured on Starz' exceptional reality series, talks about that, the competition, and her collaboration with her husband and brother-in-law.

Plus: How the show's producers tried to keep the $250,000 competition fair.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.