All is not well on TV's once dominant American Idol, despite a shake-up at the beginning of this season that was supposed to rejuvenate the aging Fox talent competition.
Instead, the behind-the-scenes-and-sometimes-in-front-of-the-scenes drama continues to cast a shadow over the series, right up to Thursday's coronation of Idol's 12th season champion.
Jackson's declaration last week that he was departing the show means producers could plan a proper send-off for the lone remaining original judge this week, much the same way they did for Simon Cowell during the ninth season finale in 2010.
However, the fates of the other three judges remain uncertain amid reports they're out, too, and Fox and Idol producer FremantleMedia aren't commenting.
It's oh-so-familiar territory for the show, whose panel has revolved like an amusement park carousel since the addition of songwriter Kara DioGuardi at the beginning of the eighth season in 2009.
The will-they-or-won't-they speculation sparked publicity for years, but many viewers - the ones who are left, anyway - have seemingly grown tired of the guessing games.
"It's a disservice to the talent on the show," said Lyndsey Parker, Yahoo's music editor who writes about Idol and other televised singing competitions on the Reality Rocks blog.
"I'm quite fatigued by all the emphasis on the judges, especially when they step down or aren't asked back or whatever, and the speculation begins about all the potential replacements."
A trio of chart-topping new faces on this season's panel was supposed to breathe new life into Idol.
With reported paychecks of $18m for Carey, $12m for Minaj and $6m for Keith Urban, there hasn't been a return on the investment. The ratings have never been lower for Idol, which for nine seasons was the most-watched show on TV.
What went wrong? How did Idol lose its way? Was it merely a lackluster crop of contestants this season? Their song selections? Or have viewers simply grown weary of searching for yet another superstar since 2002?
Maybe they were turned off by that ongoing feud between hip-hop diva Minaj and pop queen Carey, just as much as by some of the contestants?
"When you're on the stage, it does feel pretty awkward," acknowledged Candice Glover, the R&B vocalist who will face off against country singer Kree Harrison on Wednesday.
"When it's happening to another contestant, I try not to watch. I don't think it overshadows the performance, but when you're up there, you have to wait for them to finish [the back-and-forth]."
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