American Idol, Fox's cash cow and the music industry's best commercial enterprise, returned for its 11th season last week. The crew that helped propel Scotty McCreery to country and western insta-stardom last season has returned intact for another go with their comfortably familiar singing competition.
J-Lo, the Dog, Ryan, and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler are all back yucking it up with producer Nigel Lythgoe pulling the behind-the-scenes strings. What is different for Idol this year is that now there are two other entrants into the reality singing competition business. The Voice, famous for spinning chairs and the song "Moves like Jagger," and the X-factor, famous for its stage and production that completely envelop the performers, have both established themselves with good enough ratings to return.
The Voice will actually go head to head with Idol this season beginning in February. Adding a twist of nasty spice to this Fox-NBC network competition will be the Voice using American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson as a mentor.
Can America digest two singing competitions concurrently? We will see, but if last weeks lowest-ever-ratings for an Idol debut are any indication - the audience has been diluted by these other shows. Too bad, because it is still the best one. Idol's familiarity fits like a glove.The city-by-city auditions, Hollywood week and the countdown from the final 24 to the final champion make for terrific old school family television. Few shows provide a more wholesome excuse to gather round the big screen.
There is also Idol's unmatched track record for producing bona fide music stars. Clarkson, Underwood, Daughtry, Cook, Lambert, and McCreery are an impressive group of discoveries. X-factor and The Voice may prove to be equally effective in launching careers, but with just a season apiece both are too new to say.
So here we are, another season. Forget about the elections and the global economics crises. Cook up some popcorn and huddle up the family and begin the debate on who should win.