After 15 seasons, “American Idol” comes to a close this week, but don’t count on the pop culture phenomenon being off air forever.
“I have no idea what’s going to happen in future, but it’s a classic format,” exec producer Trish Kinane tells Variety. “I don’t think this is the end for ‘Idol’ forever, but in the immediate future, this is the farewell.”
On last night’s retrospective special on Fox, the “Idol” team, including creator Simon Fuller, heavily teased a possible reboot of the show, which would hold onto the classic format, but bring changes to the singing competition.
Many viewers have voiced their feelings about the show ending too soon, and “Idol’s” current crop of judges, alongside Kinane, told press members earlier this year that they wouldn’t be shocked to see the show come back down the road. After all, the show’s farewell season has fared well in the ratings department.
“American Idol” is averaging a 2.9 rating in adults 18-49 and about 11 million viewers overall on Wednesdays and Thursdays this season, according to Nielsen’s “most current” estimates, down a slight 5% year over year. After not showing much of a spark in recent weeks, ratings picked up for last week’s two-hour Thursday telecast, which hit a five-week high one week before the show signs off the air.
When asked if she would have liked for the show to continue, Kinane — who joined “Idol” in Season 12 — responded, “Yeah, definitely.” The British reality TV veteran added: “The ratings are good and it’s just a classic format. I understand why shows come to an end after such a long time — but still, nine, 10, 11, 12 million people are regularly engaged in watching this show. I don’t have any regrets about it. Sometimes things have their right time to come to an end. They don’t disappear forever.”
While “Idol” brass have talked about bringing the show back, insiders close to Fox tell Variety there are no formal plans to renew “Idol” for another season at this time, but the possibility of a future revival certainly isn’t out of question. The source echoes Kinane’s feelings that the show’s format can be seamlessly rebooted at any time on any platform.
Kinane says that while the show could have extended its lifespan in the current TV landscape, she isn’t harboring any gone-too-soon feelings.
“I think we’re pretty pragmatic about these things,” she says, adding that her main focus this season was making the best final round possible. “I’m just happy this farewell season is turning out as warm as it is. Also, there’s some really good talent. We want to go out with good talent for the 15th season, and I think we are.”
Aside from creating megastars like Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson — something many of “American Idol’s” TV competitors have struggled to replicate — Kinane is proud of the legacy “Idol” is leaving behind in terms of format, which she describes as “innovatory.” For one, she notes the show helped popularize the trend of showing auditions on television.
“‘Idol’ still travels around America to find people — and not just the producers, the judges do too. It’s pretty unique in that way,” she says. “Really opening up the potential to have a life and a career, ‘Idol’ started all that, and also handed the power over to America to vote so that these people became their choice.”
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