'American Idol' ratings down, despite Mariah Carey-Nicki Minaj feud

"American Idol" judges, from left, Mariah Carey, Keith "American Idol" judges, from left, Mariah Carey, Keith Urban and Nicki Minaj attend the Fox Winter TCA Tour at the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, Calif. (Jan. 16, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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Verne Gay Verne Gay

Gay is the television critic. ...

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What is it about celebrity feuds -- especially diva feuds -- that quickens the pulse, sells the record, pops the rating? As "American Idol" returned this week -- with Fox executives predicting an escalation in hostilities between Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey -- a lonely nation casts its eyes toward a show where the promise of blood lust will be sated.

The 12th season began Wednesday, and it was pretty obvious that at least some of the 17.9 million viewers (down 19 percent from last season's opener) primarily came for a fight. Would Minaj -- with those neon pink lips and hair the hue of a raging bonfire -- bug Carey just enough to get her to claw her way over the top of Keith Urban to throttle her? (We already know Minaj reportedly has threatened to shoot Carey -- that particular episode in question, Fox now says, will air next week.)

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Minaj, in fact, dominated the first round Wednesday. She chattered and cajoled, commandeering the camera and (by association) the audience.

When the camera caught Carey, she looked weary and exasperated, as though that noisy 3-year-old a few feet away needed a good smack. And for good measure, Minaj used the b-word (albeit under her breath) while responding to Carey.

Do Minaj and Carey really hate each other? Who knows, but it is to "Idol's" benefit to promote bad blood because what else is there to promote at this stage? Bad singers? And with ratings off, an all-out judge war just might help.

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