The new, improved American Idol--at least, according to FOX--debuted last night with much anticipation given the exit of noted critic Simon Cowell and the on-boarding of new judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez. And, based upon TV critic feedback, the new, improved Idol is just that.
Here is a sampling of what the critics had to say, the vast majority of which was positive:
- Linda Stasi in the New York Post wrote, "They came, they saw, they slammed it. Welcome the hell back, American Idol! It's been a long journey there, and now that it's back, with all the fun-stealing demons exorcised, we can all find reason to stay home again. Heck, last night's made-over Idol was so good, I may never go out again."
- In USA Today, Brian Mansfield said, "Unlike the past couple of seasons, where the judges often appeared awkward together--almost as if they were working at cross purposes--this crew seems to genuinely get along, even if they're a softer touch than previous panels, much more willing to send somebody through on their personality."
- AP writer David Bauder noted, "The first, two-hour episode accentuated the positive, an indication that producers are setting a different tone."
- Billboard's Monica Herrera's review said, "Viewers won't know for sure how Tyler and Lopez will ultimately fare as Idol judges until the live episodes begin to air in March. Tyler...was a pleasant surprise throughout the show, offering cogent critique." However, Herrera also wrote, "Without Cowell on the panel--and with Randy Jackson taking the role of senior judge--the critiques overall lacked teeth."
Now, for the less than positive news--television ratings for the opening episode were down 13% from a year ago among total viewers and 18% in the so, so important 18-49 year old demographic, according to Nielsen. Last night's much-hyped debut of Tyler and Lopez was seen by 26.1 million viewers compared to 29.9 million in 2010 and 30.4 million in 2009. Overall, the franchise has been declining since the 2007 season when the premiere attracted a high of 37.4 million viewers.
While most any other program covets a viewership of this magnitude, the opening night ratings do cause concern for FOX execs who were anxiously awaiting the impact of the new judges and slightly revamped format. It will be interesting to see if the audience numbers improve as word-of-mouth buzz builds, or if the decline reflects the public's growing apathy about the show.