January 13, 2009
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — The ninth season of “American Idol,” the final of the series’ star judge Simon Cowell, debuted last night on FOX to boffo ratings, although it was not as high as recent seasons’ past.
The show opened its first half hour of its Boston auditions with Victoria Beckham serving as a guest judge for the departed Paula Abdul with 26 million viewers (a 9.8 / 26 share) and grew through the 9 PM half-hour. By 8:30 PM the show hit 30 million views (11.8 / 29), and it peaked at 9 PM with 32 million viewers (12.8 / 31). It dipped slightly again at 9:30 PM with 31 million viewers (12.6 / 30).
The 29.7 million opening night ratings average was the show’s lowest since Season 3 (see season premiere ratings numbers, below).
It was clear from the beginning that the focus this season would be more on the contestants, and the show prepares for its most major upheaval ever; the departure of Simon. The show presented its usual buffet of semi-talented hopefuls, atrocious train-wreck disasters, and heartwarming stories of contestants who have overcome adversity.
Successful standouts included through-and-through Italian Amadeo Diricco (Kara called him her “fellow Paisano”), Jordin Sparks-clone Ashley Rodriguez, and Mika look-a-like Tyler Grady (who performed with two broken wrists!).
Standout tragedies included Pat Ford and his cover of Britney Spears’ “Womanizer”, Andrew Fenlon’s war of words with Kara (although his “House of the Rising Sun” wasn’t actually too tragic!), and the unforgettable Norberto Guerrero, to whom Simon said, “You sing like a 3-year-old girl, you dress like La Toya Jackson, and you’ve got a beard.”)
The show continues for its second night tonight in Atlanta, for a one-hour show with guest host Mary J. Blige.