NBC is in “early discussions” to revive “American Idol,” according to a story posted at Variety.com on Thursday.
Citing sources, the trade publication said an “Idol” reboot would allow the network to rest “The Voice” by alternating one series with the other. “The Voice” — which unlike “Idol” has never launched a major recording artist — is still a big draw for NBC, albeit a lesser one in recent seasons. A possible reason: its two “cycles,” or editions, per year.
“Idol” ended its 15-year run at Fox early last year — so early (April 7) that the series finale didn’t even land during the May sweeps. That alone was the most obvious indication “Idol” was not what it had once been.
Nevertheless, “Idol” creator Simon Fuller and production company Fremantle refused to take no for an answer, either from Fox or the dwindling fan base. In some exit interviews, Fuller hinted at a return, either at Fox or elsewhere. Even Ryan Seacrest refused to say the end meant the end. In his last seconds as master of ceremonies last spring, he told viewers goodbye, “for now.”
Speculation about an “Idol” return has hardly been an industry obsession. Most pundits figured the show’s time was past and that “Idol” was essentially a product of its time, when smartphones were just coming into widespread use and when novelties like voting on them was, as well. Moreover, the teen fan base had moved on years earlier. “Idol” had also turned into a budget-eating monster, with many millions spent on the judges alone. In effect, “Idol” had become prohibitively expensive.
However, Fuller never said an “Idol” reboot would be a facsimile of the original, but rather a brand-new series that embraced social media in some novel way.
A move to NBC — if it happens — would be surprising, hardly pointless. Besides giving “The Voice” that much-needed breather, both series could cross-promote in some fashion, or even deploy that oldest of gimmicks: the crossover episode, or episodes.
Will fans of “Idol” flock to this newcomer as they did the original, when tens of millions of fans made 15-minute superstars out of performers such as Clay Aiken and genuine superstars out of Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson? Of course not. Those days are gone forever.
Does a sturdy franchise that still had plenty of viewers when it ended and may have a compelling integration of new media in a reboot stand a good chance on a new network?
That’s an entirely different question.