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From "American Idol" to "American Gladiators" -- Goodbye, TV Season
May 21, 2008  | By David Bianculli

David wins! David wins!

On the other hand: David loses! David loses!


As I write this Wednesday morning, the victor in this year's American Idol is unknown. Depending upon when you read this, the outcome may be a sure thing. But here's one sure thing regardless: TV's about to get duller, again, for a few months. After tonight, the May ratings sweeps, and the 2007-08 TV season, are over.

Let's deal with Idol first. I was rooting for David Cook over David Archuleta, but Cook's usually canny song-selecting and arrangement-selecting instincts batted just 1 for 3 in the final competition, with only his version of U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" a powerful choice and performance. Archuleta countered that immediately with an equally impressive version of Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," and the remaining two rounds went easily to the younger David.

Judge Simon Cowell called it a "knockout" by Archuleta at the end, and the youngster's squealing fan base almost certainly will celebrate him home. (If Cook has a slim chance, despite Archuleta's superior finals-night performances, it's only because Cook seems more sincere, and his selections and arrangements more daring.)

A Cook upset is unlikely. Archuleta is so calculating, he once again shaved the all-important opening verse from John Lennon's "Imagine," just so he wouldn't risk offending his voting bloc by singing, "Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try..."

Meanwhile, imagining there's no TV worth watching this summer (the offerings, not the website) is easy if you try.

The season ends officially tonight, and only a few more exciting things to anticipate remain before the month is out. The Ugly Betty and Grey's Anatomy season finales air tomorrow, and, the one for which I really can't wait, the two-hour Lost season finale, is broadcast a week later. But then what? Summer series such as Swingtown on CBS and Fear Itself on NBC will try to keep viewers interested and in place, but viewers, bless them, already are showing signs of impatience.


NBC's awful American Gladiators returned for its second go-round last week in an embarrassing, unexpected fourth-place finish in its time slot. It's impossible not to react with glee at how that cynically mounted and presented series has been rejected so soundly, and so quickly, after NBC counted on it to replicate its initial, curiosity-fueled high ratings. Next up -- and, I bet, next down -- will be NBC's Knight Rider, the tacky telemovie NBC is turning into a fall series.

According to A.C. Nielsen, the five broadcast networks lost a total of 3.4 million viewers for the strike-bitten 2007-08 season, the biggest one-year network decline ever. Ever. But just as gas prices keep setting new records for high prices, the networks better get used to set continual new records for shedding viewers.

The only way out is to make better programs -- and, except for a few notable instances, the networks haven't exactly committed to that.


1 Comment


Roger Caine said:

Hey...what about the summer series that will be coming up! I personally am more excited about "The Closer", "Saving Grace", "Rescue Me" and "Weeds" than anything the networks gave us since the writers strike, except maybe my new favorite network show "Reaper". Please tell me that you will be covering these offerings this summer? (Yes, of course. Otherwise, why watch TV? I was griping about broadcast TV summer offerings, not cable. I'm right with you. -- David B.)

Comment posted on May 22, 2008 8:06 AM

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