American Idol is finally making a change in its last season that, had it been made earlier, could conceivably have helped the show last longer: cutting the season by more than a month.
The show will air its finale on April 7, a full five weeks earlier than it concluded last year, according to spoiler site The Idol Pad. Season 14 already had its season shortened by one week, compared to 2014’s season 13. That could leave Idol’s last season with as few as 22 episodes—a huge drop for a show that had more than 40 episodes for much of its life.
Billboard reported on Friday that the show will end in April, “anointing a winner four weeks earlier than in previous years.” The magazine says it was a Fox decision because the network “wants to cut its losses with the show that once had a season-five high of 35 million viewers, but was able to draw only 11 million” last year, and “revenue, meanwhile, has fallen from $628 million in 2013 to $427 million a year later.”
While neither Fox nor Fremantle Media, which produces the show, are confirming the change, the executive now in charge of production did admit that bloat was a huge problem. And it was.
A shorter season will be better for American Idol 15
As early as season eight, Fox promised it would undo the expanded, bloated, hour-long results shows. That didn’t happen.
They made the same promise in 2010, and Fox’s then-entertainment president Kevin O’Reilly told reporters, “We’re heard consistently from audiences they would like more performances, tighter results shows, so that’s what we’re going to do as we get into the spring.”
What would have happened had American Idol actually had “more performances” and “tighter results shows” for the past six years? What if its results shows had been 30 minutes? What if it had aired just one episode a week, like it did as of the top 12 last year, and will do again this year? Would it still be cancelled, and leaving television as a gaunt version of the behemoth it once was?
For sure, there were other problems less related to scheduling and more related to creative decisions, from judges to casting. But all that time to fill meant more time to waste, and less time to focus on what made Idol such a massive hit to begin with.
Trish Kinane, who’s FremantleMedia North America’s president of entertainment and also the co-showrunner with Fox’s David Hill, admitted to Billboard:
“The storytelling works better in [fewer] weeks. […] Idol was so successful [that the season] got too extended too much. There are only so many hours that viewers will devote to watching these shows, so if it is shorter this year, it will be a good thing.”
Yes. Completely. Over-extending the show may not have killed it, but all that extra weight and filler dragged it down. Even last year, during Hollywood week, a two-hour episode had just 6.3 songs. In a singing competition. With too much time on its hands season after season, American Idol lost its way.