NOTHING SUCCEEDS LIKE SUCCESS: At the end of last year, Fox was in its customary fourth place in the ratings, halfway through a TV season that had yielded no notable hits, and committed to their customary tactic of sabotaging anything that looked like it might be one. But that was then, this is now, and now is the time of Idol, which might be dropping viewers to the tune of a couple million, but Idol can afford to be generous, right?
According to a TV Week story, Fox has tied itself with first place CBS, and might already have overtaken the Tiffany Network, Both networks had a 3.9 rating among 18 to 49-year-old adults, but Fox looked to be overtaking CBS, with this week’s Idol episodes projected to take them to a 4.0. (Trust me, they might not sound big numbers, but they are. Someone’s alimony payments are probably going up with this news.)
“Though Fox typically rises from fourth place to first during the spring,” wrote James Hibberd in TV Week, “this will be the first time in years that the presumptive season winner has taken the lead position this early. During the past three years, the 18-to-49 race has been decided by a mere tenth of a rating point. Last year, the race between ABC and Fox went down to the last few days of the season, then Fox pulled out a victory.”
Time might be running out on the Death Star, however – a story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Idol buzz blog notes that there’s been a 10 per cent drop-off in the 18-34 demographic, while overall ratings have dropped from 33 million this time last year to 29.5 million for Tuesday night’s show. The bleeding of Idol’s core, younger crowd is a phenomenon that’s been both predicted and fondly anticipated for the past few months, and the conventional wisdom is that an aging Idol viewership is bad news for ad sales.
It’s to be expected that Idol’s tween and teen crowd are moving on – they’ve had six seasons to get, like, totally over Idol, and one would hope that they’ve found something better to do than religiously plant themselves in front of the TV two or three nights a week, especially for a show their parents are, like, totally obsessed with. The slow abdication of the next age demographic is supposed to be the commercial equivalent of terminal cancer, based on the confounding notion that college students and twentysomethings in their first job, apartment and serious relationship are somehow more fiscally attractive than people with homes, mortgages, families and job seniority, or empty nesters with savings, equity and liquid assets.
Don’t ask me how this works – it’s an abiding mystery, up there with the presumed sexual appeal of Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow. The Journal-Constitution piece blames Idol’s slipping ratings on the lack of country singers, or the uninspiring male voices; I blame Britney Spears. After a year of messy divorce, sloppy parenting, flashing, sudden baldness and general craziness, I think the public gets an icky feeling just contemplating pop stars and their whole twisted, infantile, enabling industry. When does Hell’s Kitchen start up again?