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'Idol' no longer king of the water cooler

By Lisa Respers France, CNN
"Modern Family" is just one of the shows that has been more buzzworthy this season than "American Idol."
"Modern Family" is just one of the shows that has been more buzzworthy this season than "American Idol."
  • This season of "American Idol" hasn't offered fans much to be excited about
  • "Idol" used to have water cooler moments that had fans discussing the next day
  • Other shows have been more buzzworthy with more drama and interesting personalities
  • Writer says "Idol" still the biggest show on television even if it's no longer the "it" show

(CNN) -- Remember "American Idol"? That talent show with all the water-cooler moments?

You know: Clay Aiken's impeccable "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Fantasia's smooth "Summertime." David Cook's soaring "Billie Jean." Adam Lambert's insane take on "Mad World."

And the shockers: Jennifer Hudson's ouster after an almost flawless rendition of "Weekend in New England." Or what about the night Chris Daughtry got the ax? Even Katherine McPhee was left uttering "what?" when she was revealed to be safe.

But all that is in the past. Season Nine of "Idol" has been more "meh" than miraculous. It's "Idol's" competition that's become the buzziest of the buzz-worthy.

Video: 'Idol' analysts pick choices for finale

The following are just some of the shows that have showed up "Idol" this season in terms of stimulating fan chatter and being downright more interesting.


Fox didn't have to go far to have a hit that has rivaled "Idol's" energetic fan base.

"Glee" has many of the elements that initially made "Idol" a hit: America's joy at falling in love with undiscovered talent and the thrill of the weekly "Let's put on a show" spirit.

Even if the voices of the kids from "Glee" are cleaned up sometimes in the studio, inherently you just know that they can sing better than anyone we've seen on "Idol" this season. Indeed, actress Amber Riley, who portrays powerhouse singer Mercedes on "Glee," was once rejected as an "Idol" contestant. Go figure.

Add in great storylines, amazing dialogue rife with hilarious pop cultural references and solid reinterpretations of songs that send fans running to download them on iTunes -- and "Glee" has managed to out-"Idol" "American Idol" this season.

'Dancing With the Stars'

The hit ABC dance competition not only beat "Idol" some weeks in the ratings, it also delivered in aces this season what "Idol" was sorely lacking -- personalities.

Kate Gosselin may be reviled by many, but her "love to hate her" persona no doubt drew many to catch her hot-mess dance moves every week, if for no other reason than to witness the week she was finally sent packing.

Tabloid rumors of alleged Gosselin diva behavior on set and the behind-the-scenes shenanigans with ex-husband Jon Gosselin over custody of their children served to heighten the drama.

Kate Gosselin also added to the trifecta of "bad girls," which included Pam Anderson and Shannen Doherty -- the latter two who share the same ex-husband.

There was lots of chatter on the blogs as to whether Anderson and Doherty might have bad blood that could lead to a showdown. And bloggers were also watching to see whether Anderson would have a "wardrobe malfunction" given the skimpiness of her outfits and the abundance of everything else.

Definitely more engaging than "Inspirational Songs Week" over at "Idol."


"Even if you don't know what's happening on 'Lost,' you know about 'Lost,' " says Entertainment Weekly writer and "Idol" blogger Michael Slezak. "With the series ending this season, people are curious."

Curious and probably somewhat confused.

The intricate narrative, symbolism and supposed clues that are presumably to lead to the "what it all means" has fans hooked on the television equivalent of a treasure hunt.

The show is literally epic, and diehard fans have been watching and rewatching past seasons on DVD to gear up for this last season. The recent deaths of some major characters had viewers debating whether it was a brilliant or boneheaded move.

Regardless of the final call, it got fans talking.

'Modern Family'

ABC might just have crafted the perfect sitcom in "Modern Family."

If fans played a drinking game every time one of the actors tossed off a hilarious line, folks would probably be under the table after 15 minutes.

The entirely relatable premise of the dramedy that can ensue within a family made up of so many different personalities has something for everyone, be they young or old, gay or straight.

Offering the ensemble cast up as part of a "mockumentary" where everyone is related, yet still has their own drama and side story, has many viewers engaged in a way that "Idol" used to: You have your favorites, but you still care about the group as a whole.

Sure it's apples and oranges to compare a reality singing competition with a sitcom or a drama, but consider: the Los Angeles Times has referred to the acting on "Modern Family" as having "not one weak link." Over on "Idol" this season, there are plenty of weak links -- and lots of contestants who fans wish would act like they care.

Not everyone thinks "Idol" has fallen. It remains the season's top show, as it has been every year since 2005, and ratings have started trending upward as the competition goes into its final episodes of the year.

Rickey Yaneza, who writes about the show at, says "American Idol" still draws in viewers even if they complain about the lackluster season. It's simply running its course as any other show would after being on air for nine seasons, he says.

"It's no longer the 'it' show on television, but even with the ratings down, it's still the number one show on television," Yaneza says. "It's really just the same show every season with different faces."