ABC will revive one of the biggest TV shows of this century when “American Idol” premieres Sunday.
It would be foolish to expect the show, which ended a 15-season run on FOX not quite two years ago, even to approach the heights it reached at its mid-2000s peak. ABC will, however, probably get a decent-sized ratings upgrade.
The network is averaging a 1.0 in adults 18-49 from 8-10 p.m. Sundays with “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and “Shark Tank.” If “Idol” comes in at the high 1s or low 2s — ABC has reportedly guaranteed advertisers a 1.8 — it will come out as a plus for the network.
And also something of a first. ABC has two very successful and long-running reality franchises in “Dancing With the Stars” and “The Bachelor/ette,” but it has been absolutely awful at launching and sustaining music-based competitions. The network is pretty much 0-for-the-21st century in that regard.
Now, like a high-priced free agent touted as the savior of a struggling sports franchise, “Idol” will attempt to reverse 18 years of low-rated and ill-fated history for ABC with regard to music shows.
ABC isn’t messing much with the “Idol” formula, and host Ryan Seacrest will resume the job he had for the first 15 seasons. There are new judges in Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie, but the show will look a lot like the one (a whole lot of) people watched on FOX for 15 seasons.
The question is whether enough people are excited or curious about “Idol’s” return, and then get hooked enough to stick around and sustain a decent-sized audience. The history of the show suggests it will be a decent draw; ABC had better hope it doesn’t go the way of the seven shows below.
Here are the music shows ABC has aired since 2000. Warning: It’s not pretty.
‘Making the Band’ (2000-01)
Here’s how bad this subgenre of reality TV has been for ABC: The network’s most successful singing competition spent most of its life on another network, MTV.
The first season of “Making the Band” averaged about 7 million viewers in the spring of 2000 — marginal for the time, but in the same neighborhood as the Friday-night comedies (“The Hughleys,” “Boy Meets World” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”) it followed.
Season 2 was pulled after just two episodes in April 2001 after a third of the Season 1 audience abandoned it. ABC burned off the remainder of the season in June and July. The show subsequently had a long life on MTV, running in various incarnations from 2002-09.
‘The One: Making a Music Star’ (2006)
The nadir of ABC’s forays into music competitions lasted just two weeks and four episodes.
“The One” was based on an overseas format that combined “Idol”-style singing competition with a “Big Brother” element, where viewers would see the contestants living together, rehearsing and (the producers hoped) developing rivalries.
That is, if anyone had actually watched. The series premiere on July 18, 2006 drew 3.2 million viewers and a 1.1 in adults 18-49 — at the time the second-smallest audience ever for a series debut on ABC, CBS or NBC.
Fun fact: Three people involved in “The One” — judge Kara DioGuardi and singers Syesha Mercado and Jackie Mendez — wound up on later seasons of “American Idol.”
Kelly Clarkson, Robin Thicke, John Legend and Jennifer Nettles chose two singers each to perform duets with them each week. The other stars graded the performances, and at the end of each episode the two lowest-ranked contestants had a sing-off.
The show shares something in common with a few of ABC’s other musical misfires: competition formats too complicated for their own good. In chasing a twist on the “Idol” or “The Voice” formula, several of these shows put too much emphasis on the mechanics and not enough on the actual performing.
“Duets” didn’t fare too badly in the ratings: It averaged a 1.2 in adults 18-49 and 4.93 million viewers, not bad for a summer show. But it didn’t come back.
‘Rising Star’ (2014)
ABC heavily hyped this show, based on an Israeli format where real-time viewer voting determined whether singers advanced or were sent packing.
Where all of Israel is located within one time zone, though, the U.S. spans several, which made things much more complicated. The show had a not-bad start (1.5 in adults 18-49) but couldn’t sustain it, finishing at 1.1, along with 4.08 million viewers, for its lone season.
‘Sing Your Face Off’ (2014)
You’d be forgiven for not even knowing this show — which featured celebrities doing impersonations of famous singers — even existed. ABC dumped the six episodes on three Saturdays in late May and early June 2014.
Considering that, its 0.7 18-49 rating isn’t all that bad. But it was clear the network didn’t want to pursue it further.
‘Greatest Hits’ (2016)
This show wasn’t a competition, but rather just a performance showcase for artists. It featured musicians of a certain age, ranging from Rick Springfield to the Backstreet Boys, performing their hits, sometimes alongside contemporary singers. It too was one and one after averaging 0.9 and 3.6 million viewers.
‘Boy Band’ (2017)
“Boy Band” brings us full circle on ABC’s 17 years of musical futility. Like “Making the Band,” it aimed to assemble the next big boy band, this time for a post-One Direction world. It didn’t catch on, managing only a 0.6 among the 18-49 demo and 2.46 million viewers.
ABC hasn’t officially said the show is canceled, but it also doesn’t have any current casting notices on the network website.