Are televised singing competitions on the way out?
Fox announced it was canceling Simon Cowell's The X-Factor after three disappointing seasons. Head honcho Simon Cowell will go back to the U.K., where he will return to his original X-Factor show and roll his eyes at somebody else for a change.
The X-Factor faced an uphill battle from the start. It had the icy appeal of Cowell, but it also didn't have the novelty factor like American Idol when it premiered stateside in 2002. It was too familiar to a format that we were already used to, with Idol still on the air along with NBC's version The Voice.
It was like Greed compared to Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
But we even got tired of Millionaire.
In fact, you can probably count the number of game shows that have stood the test of time on one hand (Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, The Price is Right, maybe Family Feud, and ... ?).
Idol is nowhere near the ratings powerhouse or buzz-worthy spectacle it once was, and though The Voice has remained relatively consistent, interest will wane. NBC can't expect Cee-Lo Greene to sit there in his red pajamas forever (all right, maybe it can), and as we've learned with Idol's revolving door of hosts, replacing them isn't as easy as you might think.
Viewer fatigue is a real phenomenon. When we see too much of something, we get sick of it, especially if the knock-offs are of lesser quality than the original. In 2009, Avatar made $2.8 kajillion, because an immersive 3D experience was fresh at the time. But 3D movie sales plummeted in 2013, now that we're all over being forced to see (and pay $16 for) every sub-standard action flick that comes out (I exclude Gravity, which aimed to take that next step and succeeded).
The Sopranos was a massive commercial hit, so we got Ray Donovan and we all couldn't care less. Comic book adaptations have been huge these days, so let's make sure we get every established superhero a feature film: Green Hornet, Green Lantern and (gulp) Ant-Man? Everyone who's anyone loves The Lego Movie, so surely the K'Nex epic film can't be far behind.
Every great idea in entertainment gets re-purposed into 50 mediocre-to-good ideas that render that original great one almost obsolete. You can't recreate magic in a bottle -- you need to get a different bottle and try to create a new potion from scratch.
Whether the talent pool has been diluted, or the judges are mailing it in, or we're realizing the people who win these competitions don't actually become successful (have you ever heard of any of the five winners of The Voice?), televised singing competitions have lost their luster.
But they shouldn't feel bad. It happens to everybody.
Except Alex Trebek and Pat Sajak.
Follow Pete McQuaid on Twitter and Tout @sweetestpete.