A surprising report was published in Variety yesterday: NBC is talking to the producers of American Idol about acquiring the show. Yes, the network that successfully launched a competing singing show, The Voice, which eventually eclipsed Idol in the ratings, might buy the show that was cancelled by another broadcast network less than one year ago. Variety reports:
“Fremantle has been shopping an ‘Idol’ revival in recent weeks, with NBC emerging as the leading candidate to become the new home of the long-running singing-competition series. Sources emphasize that talks are ongoing, and no deal is yet in place.”
So why on earth would NBC dig up that rotting corpse and prop it up in the corner? Especially when it already has The Voice? How does this make any sense outside of TV land, where things often don’t makes sense but everyone pretends they do?
I cannot imagine any enthusiasm for the show—but that’s me, cyncical and jaded. The only thing that excites me is the idea of a completely brand-new show that just uses the American Idol name. For example, what if instead of formatted episodes, they filmed it like a documentary and followed the contestants 24/7 as they go through the process of being on that very show? That’s interesting.
But there’s no indication yet that NBC is going to do anything different with it, if they even buy it. So let’s look at reasons why they’d want that tired old crusty heap of Seacrest magic:
- It allows them to air less of The Voice. Variety says they could be “cutting NBC’s existing singing competition The Voice from two cycles a year to one,” so they’d fill one of the slots with Idol instead. But why wouldn’t you just stick with the show that’s working instead of risking half the year on a show another broadcast network cancelled? The former Fox executive who tweets as Masked Scheduler wrote on Twitter that it “would be a smart move” which would “Extend life of #TheVoice and minimize failure,” and added, “It will never be what it was but do better than alternative competition + if adds years to Voice could be a win/win.”
- It may not be a monster hit, but it was doing well even when it was cancelled. Screener’s Rick Porter points out that “Both the Wednesday and Thursday editions of Idol ranked in the Top 20 in adults 18-49 and the Top 25 in viewers last season. Those same numbers would be in the Top 20 again for 2016-17.” And a reboot would presumably be cheaper, because they wouldn’t have the same judges (or even host?) who get more expensive over time.
- It becomes a weapon. Vulture’s Joe Adalian suggests that one reason for bringing it back would be “[making] it tougher for other networks to launch their own music competitions.” However, he notes that “such defensive buying — assuming an NBC pickup of Idol happens — doesn’t always work out.”
- This is all just a negotiating ploy. The Hollywood Reporter cites one anonymous person who says that: “Another possibility, which one source suggests, is that the network is looking for leverage in its upcoming negotiation with Voice producers.”
I’m leaning toward #4, but if any of the other three come true, I really hope NBC and Fremantle rethink the show and make it something truly new and different, not just superficially different.