Will the strike cause Idol to blossum, or crash?

by Paul William Tenny

american-idol.jpgAn entertainment writer for the Associated Press wrote a semi-amusing article about his vision of the future of Hollywood due to the strike, at least in the near term, all the way through July of next year. Most of it is just playful prognostication, but there is a nugget of inspiration in there that will lead me to a perhaps controversial prediction. Oh I'll be hearing a strange, low frequency noise emanating from every direction from now until I die that resembles a couple of hundred million people all saying "duh" at the same time.

"Prison Break" stages a puppet version of the show to benefit production staff; an episode of "Gossip Girl" is mimed to reflect writer-less television. Viewers discover that HBO's "The Wire" is the best show on television, and that they still don't care much for hockey. The "American Idol" premiere draws one billion viewers. (AP)

It's fun to joke about it but this isn't really a laughing matter. The nets will crank up the non-scripted reality programming way beyond a level people can tolerate, as I happen to think we're fairly close to that level already. If people craved more reality, the nets would be supplying it by the truck load. Like serial hour-long dramas, people can only invest so much time and interest in these things, and all signs point to reality having already hit a saturation point.

That said, I'm going to predict that American Idol doesn't see any substantial gains in viewers. It may yet still have room to grow and so still may gain viewers, but no more than it would have without a strike. Everyone who enjoys that crap is going to be watching it anyway, people who don't watch it..well, they don't watch it for a damn good reason, something unlikely to change when their own favorite programming goes away.

I'm sure Fox, deep down, is praying to the TV gods that something like that would happen, but I think it's more imagination than reality. If anything, without any strong lead-in or lead-out for Idol, people are going to be less likely to already be in front of their television sets when Idol comes on. There could be a real chance that Idol will actually take a hit from the strike as people - disgusted at not having House and Grey's Anatomy to bookend their reality fix - will opt to do something else with their time. Thoughts?
in Labor, Television


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