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The Era of an End

American Idol will end after Season 15. And, oddly enough, we're good with that.

This morning, correspondent Elliott notified us on our Facebook page that American Idol would end after its 15th season in 2016.  The editorial staff of WhatNotToSing.com proceeded to set a new world record for cycling through the Kübler-Ross five stages of grief.

  • Denial.  Elliott is an extremely reliable source, but surely he misread something, somewhere.  Considering how awful the rest of Fox's non-sports programming is doing, they wouldn't pull the plug on their second-highest rated series.  Heck, a few weeks ago, The Wrap analyst Tony Maglio noted that if the rest of Fox's prime-time schedule merely equaled AI's average Nielsen rating, then Fox would nearly be the #1 network in America (CBS would edge it out by about 100,000 viewers, which is essentially a rounding error.)
  • Anger.  We blamed Per Blankens for his stupid Lite-Brite chairs (a shout-out to correspondent Jamie for that zinger), his unintentionally comical Save-Du-Jour schemes, and the Rush Week Every Week format that he and he alone believed was a good idea.
  • Bargaining.  "Well, we could always switch to The Voice..."
  • Depression.  This didn't last long.
  • Acceptance.  This didn't last long either.  We zipped right through here to arrive at a wholly new stage that Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross probably never envisioned:
  • Relief.

All of the above took roughly 90 seconds.  No, really.  The folks at Guinness ought to send us a plaque or something.

Let's face it.  It's time for Idol to move on.  There's a pretty good chance it will only be a hiatus, anyway.  (Okay, so Bargaining isn't quite flushed out of our systems yet.)  But, the last few years have been difficult.  As we noted a few weeks ago, we give Per Blankens all the credit in the world for trying proactively to turn the franchise around, even if a good many of his ideas fell somewhere between foolish and clinically insane.  If the series were to survive into 2017 and beyond, clearly it would need to be under someone else's stewardship.  And, why should Fox invest the time and money to bring in a new production crew when the pedigreed Blankens threw the kitchen sink at the problem but still couldn't move the Nielsen dials?

We are beyond grateful to Fox that they are giving AI's loyal fans a farewell season.  Had they not, we probably would still be in the Anger phase.  A large percentage of Idol's 2015 audience go back ten years or more.  Today's announcement will not only allow 19E and Fremantle to give the show a proper send-off, but it will allow the rest of us time to celebrate, not mourn, the end of what can honestly be described without (much) hyperbole as an American institution.

There are a lot of alumni we hope to see in Idol's farewell season.  There's no reason to call for the obvious: all the winners will be back, along with the many finalists through the years who have gone on to stardom on the stage and screen and in the studio.  No doubt Simon, Paula and Randy will return to guest-judge a episode.  But, we hope 19E will go well beyond the obvious.  We'd love to see John Stevens again, now pushing 30 and performing throwback swing, whose recent YouTube videos belie the in-way-over-his-head kid of AI3.  And, Vonzell Solomon and Elliott Yamin, a pair of underappreciated, third-place, blue-collar 'Everymans' who more held their own in star-studded company.  And, Syesha Mercado – oh, definitely Mercado, because after the nauseating kneecapping the producers gave her in her final competitive performance, there is no one who more deserves a final chance on the Idol stage to go out on her own terms.  We want to hear Lilly Scott, Alex Lambert and Katelyn Epperly once more -- Season Nine is dead and buried, of course, but we'll always think of them and wonder what might have been.  Come to think of it, there are at least a half-dozen semifinalists from Season Eight who deserve the encore performance that were unjustly denied them.  (If Ricky Braddy were in the Finale this season, he'd win it.  Discuss.)  We're certain that we'll hear Adam Lambert and Kris Allen at some point next year, but we'll riot if Allison Iraheta isn't brought back too.  We want to see James Durbin bring down the house, possibly quite literally, with another of his crazy choreographies.  We want the whole Final Seven of AI11 back; enough said.  We want Angie Miller at the piano to earn, even if it's three years too late, the 5-star performance rating she deserves...and Kree Harrison too, just because.  We want to hear the original songs that last year's Final Four had teed up before the producers yanked the theme.  (Blue Eyed Lie: the single most underrated performance in American Idol history because of what it could have ushered in.  Discuss.)  Oh, and we want to hear Joey Cook and Quentin Alexander again too, because by this time next year we're going to miss them even more than we do now.

And...if it's not asking too much...could Bo Bice sing In A Dream and Melinda Doolittle do My Funny Valentine just once more, for old time's sake?

Finally, if you'll permit a bit of ego musing....  When we started Project WNTS nearly a decade ago, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.  Two middle-aged men and one teenage girl who were pulling their hair out watching talented young contestants sing absolute crap, because they didn't know any better.  We founded the niche-iest of niche web sites, combining dry mathematics with high cheese.  We rather doubt that we improved the quality of American Idol performances very much, which was our original intention.  When the friggin' producers clear only 25 songs for Arena Anthems night, and three of them are Boyfriend, Yesterday, and White Flag, you are swimming against a raging current.

But, as we look through our database now, we see something that we hadn't planned: a snapshot of TV history.  Fourteen years of Idol, soon to be fifteen.  At the end of the day, the approval ratings we painstakingly compiled matter not nearly as much as the completeness.  Yes, we really do think there will be a sixteenth season someday: absence makes the heart grow fonder, and there's still oodles of money to be made.  But whether we're right or wrong, we're happy to have had some small part, however niche-y, in an American institution.  OK, so maybe "institution" is more than just a little hyperbole.  We're proud just the same.

We'll spend the next 14 months in celebration of Idol, culminating in the 15th and final Camp Should-A-Been in July of 2016.  This may be a more active off-season than usual for us, so if you would like to keep track on what we have planned, please like our Facebook page.

- The WNTS.com Team

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