"American Idol," the reality show that 14 years ago kicked off a tidal wave of singing competitions that have dominated network television — and introduced America to Simon Cowell — is having its last hurrah.
After failing to match up in the ratings to its younger competitors and facing lagging interest from viewers, Fox announced last year that it was shuttering its signature reality show, but not before one more search for a star. Its 15th and final season — which the producers have cleverly repackaged as something of a victory lap for a TV giant rather than the end of canceled program — kicks off with a two-night, four-hour premiere airing Wednesday and Thursday.
But what are we hoping to get out of one more season of "Idol"? And how is the show positioning itself in the crowded reality television landscape it helped create? What can the winner — or even the viewers — really expect at this point, when we live in a world where the victors of even the most popular singing competition on TV — "The Voice" — struggle for any actual success? Often, it's been better to almost make it than to make it. Just ask runners-up Clay Aiken, Adam Lambert or Jennifer Hudson (who didn't even reach the finals).