As American Idol kicks off its 11th season with auditions Wednesday and Thursday at 8/7c on Fox, can it continue to reign over its rival singing competitions on TV (and all other shows, for that matter)?
Although Simon Cowell's The X Factor crowns its winner in the fall, NBC's The Voice will be nipping at Idol's heels when it premieres its second season on Feb. 5 after the Super Bowl. Charismatic banter among the coaches and those cool, swiveling chairs may bring in some viewers, but the Idol crew isn't sweating it, judging from a recent interview.
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Frankly, we're thinking they have nothing to worry about, either. Behold, five reasons why Idol — the nation's most-watched prime-time program for the last eight years — will still be tops in Season 11:
1. A Season 10 comeback. Although Idol numbers have been slipping a bit in recent years, and original judges Cowell and Paula Abdul left for The X Factor, the rejiggered judges table and format somehow worked its magic. The Season 10 finale drew in a hefty 29 million viewers — far ahead of The Voice's 11 million and The X Factor's 12.6 million.
2. Sticking with a good thing. Following last year's upheaval and success, Season 11 won't be messing with the format. There will be minor differences -- '50s-style group singing instead of a Beatles round, for example -- but nothing significant. Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez will still be battling for best-dressed (or best-tressed), while Randy Jackson and Ryan Seacrest will enjoy senior status.
3. Those notorious audition rounds. As annoying and time-consuming as the audition rounds can be to watch, they're nevertheless a draw because they demonstrate that almost anyone, and we mean anyone, can try out. "We try and make the American dream come true," executive producer Ken Warwick told critics at Fox's winter previews earlier this month. "Our show is open to everybody. It's much better for our audience if they know that this kid was cleaning windows two months ago and this week they're No. 1 in the downloads. That's a show. That's something to get hooked into."
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4. A proven track record. Beginning with Season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson — whose "Stronger" cannot be avoided nowadays — Idol has seen numerous contestants forge successful careers, if not superstardom. Last season's champ, Scotty McCreery, is basking in the glow of his debut album hitting platinum, while Carrie Underwood is hosting every country awards show that can be devised. Jennifer Hudson has an Oscar (and new body — thanks, in part, to Weight Watchers) and Katharine McPhee co-stars in NBC's upcoming musical drama Smash. (And that's just to name a few.)
5. A girl will win! Four male winners in the past four seasons? C'mon, America. It's about time, isn't it?
Will you tune into American Idol this season? Do you like it better than The Voice or The X Factor?