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'American Idol' gets worst finale ratings in show's history

Host Ryan Seacrest during Fox's "American Idol 2013"

Host Ryan Seacrest during Fox's "American Idol 2013" Finale Results Show at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live in Los Angeles. (May 16, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

"American Idol" viewership totals for the finale are in, and they are grim: A considerable drop from last year's final in both total viewers and the bread-and-butter young adult total.

Fox, to its credit, just sent out the figures, and didn't attempt to sugarcoat anything. This is one of those "it is what it is" situations, and no reason to apply a spin no one would believe anyway.

Last night’s finale was down 44 percent from last year's season finale in adults 18-49 and down 33 percent from last year’s season finale in total viewers (14.3 million vs. 21.5 million).

Let's put that 14.3 million in perspective. The fifth season finale (2006) was seen by 36.3 million viewers, and that wasn't even the high water mark. As recently as the 10th season (2011), "Idol" got 29 million for the wrap. Last season, the 11th, 21.5 million.

What's going on? Well, you have as much a clue as I. It's called "viewer disaffection," or in simpler terms, they've moved on to something else. And from here, things get more complicated.

Without question, the entire judging panel will change next season, but you have to ask yourself — Fox should — whether this is technically a "judging" issue. Theme nights will reportedly be dropped; but again, will that turn this around.

And quality? The final three were quite good. Candice Glover, who won, was and is excellent. Is this some sort of signal from the audience that they wanted the cute white guy with guitar back in the winner's circle?  Sure. Maybe. There's long been an assumption that most of the people doing the voting are middle-aged folks from the south and Midwest who pick the guy they'd best like their daughter to bring home. Sorry Candice, you do not rate in that contest.  

But even that's getting old by now. This could simply be a case of systemic decline and fall — not attributable to any single factor.

Shows that decline this rapidly, even cultural forces like "Idol,"  can never recapture their past glory and in fact have difficulty simply stanching further declines. This has to be of great concern to Fox and may well indicate a complete housecleaning. But again, you have to ask yourself: Will even that matter?  

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