Will 'X Factor' Crush 'American Idol?' Here's a Brief History of Replacement Programming
By Oliver Miller Posted Feb 13th 2010 05:20PM
All things must come to an end, and no television show can stay good forever. But when one show stumbles, another show usually rises to take its place. Just recently, our thoughts turned to the subject of "jumping the shark" when it was announced that Simon Cowell would leave 'American Idol' to take up 'X Factor'. Is this beginning of the end for 'Idol'? We'll examine a few other memorable instances of TV shows being replaced by newer shows, right after the jump...
For eight full seasons, America followed the lives of Dr. Cliff Huxtable and his extended family on 'The Cosby Show.' But star Lisa Bonet left the show for her own spin-off, and 'The Cosby Show' fell victim to what we might call "adoption-itis," adding new characters to replace the aging members of the family. The show added step-daughter Olivia and adopted daughter Pam to step in for the no longer "cute" daughter Rudy, but it was too much for viewers to handle. Really, you can only adopt so many children before the concept begins to stretch plausibility...
'The Cosby Show' was replaced in popularity by 'The Simpsons,' an animated sitcom that did away with the traditional concept of "family," as embodied by Bill Cosby. Dr. Cliff Huxtable was wise and all-knowing. But Homer Simpson was idiotic and incompetent. After 'The Simpsons' came around, 'The Cosby Show' staggered along for another three years. But Homer and Bart and Lisa had created a new conception of family dynamics in America - the idea that a family might be relentlessly dysfunctional, and yet still full of love.
For four seasons, 'The O.C.' chronicled the lives of very very very rich kids in Southern California. But the show jumped the shark as early as the second season, by introducing ridiculous sub-plots involving bisexual kisses, murder, cage fighting, and random trips to Mexico. In the third season, star Misha Barton decided to leave the show to launch an ill-fated movie career. The series never really recovered.
But luckily, 'O.C.' creator Josh Schwartz landed on his feet, creating the new series 'Gossip Girl' - a show that was about (shockingly) the lives of very very very rich kids in Manhattan. ...Hey, if it worked the first time... 'The O.C.'s' flame may have burned too bright, too quickly, but we'll always have our memories. Especially our memories of Saturday Night Live's parody of the infamous "Dear Sister" scene.
The series 'ER' lasted for fifteen full seasons, making it the longest running medical drama in the history of television. But star George Clooney left in season five, Juliana Margulies left in season six, and main character Dr. Mark Green was killed off in season eight. But the end of the series, all that was left were relatives of main characters, or students of students of former medical students.
Stepping into the void were 'House' and 'Grey's Anatomy,' which debuted during 'ER's' final two seasons. 'House' mixed up the medical drama format by adding a drug-addicted anti-hero, and 'Grey's Anatomy' replaced 'ER's' mildly sexy doctors with even sexxxier doctors. Remember: if you ever need an idea for a new TV show, just add grouchy or sexy.
"The Truth Is Out There." ...But was it? Long-running sci-fi series 'The X-Files' held fans gripped by its combination of unrequited romance, vast conspiracy theories, and complex internal mythology. But as the show went on, it started to become clear that the show's writers had no actual answers to their questions. Would Mulder and Scully end up together? What was the deal with the bees? Was the government in on the whole thing? Instead of resolving its drama, 'The X-Files' continually left things open-ended, to the eventual frustration of the show's fans. And when star David Duchovny was replaced by the dude from 'Terminator 2,' things got even worse.
In 2008, 'Fringe' stepped in to fill the "boy/girl sci-fi drama" void with a show that the writers admitted was directly inspired by 'The X-Files.' But series creator J.J. Abrams has promised that 'Fringe' will actually manage to wrap up all its unsolved mysteries. Will the truth be out there this time? ...We Want to Believe!
'Seinfeld' is that rare exception on our list; a show that didn't jump the shark. Star Jerry Seinfeld made the decision to end the show at the height of its popularity - during its eighth season. And though some fans had certain issues with the 'Seinfeld' finale (where the characters all oddly end up in jail), demand for a 'Seinfeld' reunion was almost instantaneous. ...Well, we may never have an actual reunion. But show creator Larry David created and starred in his own sitcom, 'Curb Your Enthusiasm,' which continues on in the grand tradition of Seinfeld-ian neuroses, angst, and obsessive nit-picking. The past season of Larry David's show reunited all the 'Seinfeld' characters for a reenactment of the hit sitcom - featuring David in the role that was originally modeled after his own personality: the role of "George Costanza."
For the past nine seasons, 'American Idol' has provided us with the occasional break-out pop star... and the occasional horrifically disastrous audition. But this past season, occasionally incoherent judge Paula Adbul was replaced by Ellen DeGeneres. And then, it was announced that cranky English judge Simon Cowell would be opting out of his contract after this season, to start his own rival Reality music television series: 'The X Factor.'
Has 'American Idol' jumped the shark? Signs point to "maybe." 'The X Factor' has already replaced 'American Idol' in England and in numerous other countries. And meanwhile, Fox has announced that a potential rumored replacement for Cowell is... shock-jock Howard Stern, which is a potentially bad idea if we ever heard one. Certainly, replacing established stars with new stars is a recipe for "jumping the shark." But it's always hard to tell until that final moment when the show is airborne, flying over a shark-infested lagoon. It's not until you're up in the air for a suspended moment that you can take a second to glance nostalgically back at your own past. ...And so, is 'American Idol' over? Only the future knows...
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