There's more than Charlie Sheen and fixing the Oscars on everyone's minds
Does America really care about Simon Cowell returning? And what does it mean for FOX if they don't?
The math on this one was supposed to be easy. FOX expected "American Idol" to drop in the ratings with the departure of Simon Cowell, but that departure was supposed to prove how much America loves the snarky Brit, which was supposed to then whet appetites for the fall premiere of "The X-Factor." Instead, "Idol" has only slipped a tiny bit and reviews for new judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler have been largely positive. Now, FOX has a conundrum: What if America liked Simon Cowell on "Idol" but doesn't necessarily need him there or any place else? FOX has a rather heaping investment in "X-Factor" for the fall and the early promotion has been entirely based around the tremendous relief of having Cowell back in primetime. Coupled with the ample risk of the already-ordered "Terra Nova," FOX's fall could be huge... or not. And is there any chance that if "X-Factor" fails -- check out ratings for Paula Abdul's "triumphant" return to TV judging this spring -- is there any chance that that impacts "Idol" in the spring of 2012? There will be no bigger programming question mark as we head toward the summer and the fall.
- Dan Fienberg