"American Idol" loses viewers despite make-over

Thu Jan 20, 2011 1:00pm EST
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A revamped "American Idol" dominated U.S. television on its first outing but lost millions of viewers despite the addition of celebrity judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler.

Some 26.1 million Americans tuned in for the 10th season premiere of the singing contest, down 13 percent on last year's opening show when nearly 30 million watched, according to Nielsen ratings data on Thursday.

The numbers still crushed all other programing on Wednesday night. But after weeks of hype and curiosity over what producers called "a new era," the numbers boded ill for hopes of restoring sparkle to the aging show and reversing a four years ratings slide.

Television critics were mostly unimpressed with their first glimpse of Lopez and Aerosmith front man Tyler as they weeded out good singers from the thousands of early auditions -- without the caustic presence of British judge Simon Cowell.

Cowell, the contest's biggest star, quit in May to launch his own talent show on Fox later in 2011.

In a column headlined "The end of 'American Idol' (for real this time)," Newsweek blogger Ramin Setoodeh wrote; "The entire franchise has gone to the land of Stepford, where everybody is so nice and sweet and happy and zippy, you feel a cavity coming on."

Washington Post columnist Lisa De Moraes quipped "Good news! Nothing's changed."

Stalwart "Idol" fans however were kinder, and appreciated the show's change of emphasis to encourage wannabe singers, rather than putting them down.   Continued...

<p>Judges Steven Tyler (L), Jennifer Lopez (2nd L) and Randy Jackson and host Ryan Seacrest (R)take part in a panel discussion for the show "American Idol" at the Fox Broadcasting Company Winter Press Tour 2011 for the Television Critics Association in Pasadena, California January 11, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson</p>