‘American Idol’: Behind the Scenes of TV’s Big Gamble

America's No. 1 show is undergoing a huge face-lift in a fight to retain audience — and credibility. The changes? Radical. At stake? Everything.

There's a saying in the music business that you're only as good as your last hit. If that were true of television, then American Idol might have been dropped after last season.

With falling ratings, to the tune of 9 percent, lack of star power among 2010's contestant talent pool, the awkward addition of Ellen DeGeneres to the judges' panel and the Jan. 11 announcement of Simon Cowell's departure all contributing to a lackluster ninth year on the air — the first significant chink in the venerable $7 billion brand's armor — the Fox show remains the country's No. 1 primetime draw, though it is showing its age. Literally: The average Idol viewer is 45, significantly older than the screaming teens it's often associated with.


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