"American Idol's" 11th season closed with a fizzle instead of a sizzle -- 21.5 million total viewers, or the lowest season closer ever. This is not good news for Fox -- now grappling with a declining hit -- but even worse for "Idol." Yes, this is still a commanding franchise, but will now forever be compared to the overwhelmingly dominant past, which recedes with each passing season. (Maybe a low water mark like this might even be seen as a blessing; if the show actually tops this finale numer next season -- assuming of course this is the low water mark - then that will be interpreted as a "turnaround.")
This number is still huge, of course, but there seems to be a more dispiriting issue for the show, if Twitter and Facebook are any indication -- an almost corrosive cynicism among viewers this season. It's as if "Idol" is TV's version of a banana republic, with a voting process now considered largely meaningless and largely irrelevant. (Oh, el presidente won again? What a surprise.) It's going to be a tough off-season for both parties as they try to figure out what went wrong and where fixes need to be made.