'American Idol' Plans New Format -- What Gives?

When Simon Cowell departs next season, Fox will take a chance by cutting one of Idol's weekly broadcasts in half

For a show that revolves around suspense -- who will survive this week? -- American Idol is remarkably predictable. Over nine seasons, the format has remained basically the same: the amazing/embarrassing auditions, cutthroat eliminations, and the big finale. Minor changes, like the "judge's save" and the addition of instruments, have rarely shaken things up. Even Ellen DeGeneres replacing Paula Abdul had little impact. But now that Simon Cowell's exiting, the series will make its most drastic change yet: the weekly results show will be cut from 60 to 30 minutes.

They say if it ain't broke, don't fix it -- so does introducing a new format next season mean Idol is broken? It's certainly still a hit: so far this season, American Idol has retained its usual slot as the highest-rated primetime show on network TV. Still, the series has seen better days. Its highest-rated episode remains the 2003 Ruben Studdard-Clay Aiken showdown, while the year with the most viewers was season 5 (featuring Taylor Hicks, Chris Daughtry, Katharine McPhee and Kellie Pickler.) Not only have Idol's numbers declined over the years, but ABC's Dancing With the Stars is hot on its heels. If we were Fox execs, we'd worry, too.

The thing is, there's nothing really wrong with American Idol -- it's simply having a lackluster year. And we all realize by now that the talented crooners who "make it through" are often less memorable than the oddballs who didn't (who else could use another giggle from "Pants on the Ground" guy?). Early Idol transformations -- such as Kelly Clarkson from nobody to instant superstar, or Aiken from nerd to wildly popular nerd -- have yet to be repeated. Even the original thrill of voting for the best singer is muted, now that so many of us have been burned by the final tally (Adam Lambert fans, you know what we mean). A shorter format, plus a dynamic new judge to replace Cowell, may be exactly what Idol needs. Perhaps by chopping one of the weekly broadcasts in half, they'll be following one of the oldest show-business mottos of all: Always leave 'em wanting more.

- American Idol Recap: Take This Sinking Boat & Point It Home

- Should Harry Connick Jr. Replace Simon Cowell?
- American Idol Top 10: Who's Poised to Win?

Do you think a shorter American Idol results show is a good idea? Chime in below!


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