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What Will American Idol Destroy? (Besides TV Critics' Work Patterns?)

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Late Friday night, in a surprise move, Fox announced a midseason schedule with a big, big change: American Idol will move from Tuesday and Wednesday nights to Wednesday and Thursday nights. The move has already been hashed out well at some more biz-minded sites, but it deserves a Tuned In post, for your discussion/mourning if nothing else.

One interesting question: Is Idol attacking or is it running? We’ve come to think of it as the Death Star, and there must be a slew of producers who are not happy to see it headed their way. But it’s as arguable that the move is designed in anticipation of a possible ratings drop, post-Simon-Cowell, as much as it is meant to be a programming offensive.

One possible interpretation of that theory, for instance, is that Fox has not only decided that Glee can stand on its own, but that it may be better off without following a (possibly!) fading Idol. Likewise, a shift of one night gets Idol away from the potentially embarrassing setup of losing to Dancing With the Stars (at least in overall viewers, though likely not advertiser demographics). And as Jaime Weinman astutely points out, it changes the conversation in a way that benefits Fox—from “Is Idol hurting?” to “Who will Idol hurt?”

So who will Idol hurt? I’m not going to attempt a timeslot-by-timeslot rundown of every competitor, but as far as network series I actually care about here at Tuned In: I wouldn’t worry much about Modern Family, which is healthy both in ratings and demographics and could see a lot of same-day DVR time-shifting, when up against a two-hour Idol. (And it could well cut into Idol as much as the reverse.)

And Thursday? Community fans were none too pleased by the news, though Dan Harmon shrugged it off with a brilliant line: “American Idol has a totally different audience. They like popular things.” In a way, I think he may be right. Community’s audience is none too big, but it’s pretty loyal—to the extent that it’s been culled down by Big Bang Theory this fall, it would seem to be down to a core of people who really want to watch Community. Maybe I’m in denial, but I’m sticking with that. (If anything, I would guess that CBS’ comedies with their bigger audiences have more to lose.)

The more worrisome development to me is at Fox, where Fringe is being shuffled off to Fridays. Do I like that? No, but something has to air on Fridays, and—forcing myself to see a bright side here—it may be that the show will have a better chance with how it does on a night of reduced expectations than with its current ratings on Thursday, a marquee night for TV.

As for me? Since my job compels me to review Idol performances, at least I won’t be cramming that in with Glee reviews, as I was last year; and since it takes me all of two minutes to fast-forward through to the meat of a results show, I’m feeling fine about my Thursdays. You?

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