The talk and speculation has been going on for awhile now—and now it seems everything is coming to a head. All at once.
Yesterday, Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler officially announced that he was leaving American Idol after two seasons as a judge. Today, Jennifer Lopez confirmed the swirling rumors that she, too, is stepping down, making it official during a tearful phone-in to On Air with Ryan Seacrest.
And that’s not all. US Weekly is reporting that Randy Jackson, the last original judge on the panel, may be stepping down, as well—although if that happens, he will likely remain with Idol in a mentoring capacity.
Does this spell the end of American Idol’s eleven-year run? Not likely. Even if you think “it’s time,” as many people apparently do, rumors of possible replacement judges are rampant, including Fergie, Adam Lambert, and Mariah Carey (who is reportedly seriously considering it).
While sudden, Tyler’s departure is not all that surprising, given the current Aerosmith reboot. “It’s time for me to let go of my mistress ‘American Idol’ before she boils my rabbit,” said Tyler in his official statement. “I strayed from my first love, AEROSMITH, and I’m back.” Likewise, J-Lo had initially contracted for only a year at Idol, and had done the I-dunno dance last summer, so her departure is also not entirely jaw-dropping.
But Randy Jackson? The guy most of us thought would sit in that chair until he (or Idol) keeled over dead? Didn’t see that one coming.
While it’s apparent that the heads at Idol are determined to fight on, the once-hugely-popular show faces an uncertain future, at least as far as ratings are concerned. This past season saw some of the lowest ratings in years, and given the rise in popularity of competing shows like NBC’s The Voice, it’s apparent that once die-hard fans are losing faith in American Idol, or at least feeling that the show has run its course.
But don’t expect the show to hit the chopping block just yet. Just as the Fox Network has a remarkable penchant for cutting good shows too soon (think Arrested Development), it also has a remarkable penchant for keeping their once-popular hit shows on life support for as long as possible (think The Simpsons). American Idol has been the network’s single largest ratings grabber for most of its history, so it’s unlikely the execs are ready to pull the plug on it—especially given Simon Cowell’s new show The X-Factor had such a disappointing run last year, and could easily have put Idol in jeopardy otherwise.
My prediction? Idol will hire at least two new celebrity judges (three, if the Randy Jackson rumor proves true), and rally on for at least one more season. Whether or not it should.