Just over 24 million people tuned in to watch American Idol's conclusion of season nine, the smallest audience for an "American Idol" season finale since season one in 2002, according to a ratings report in "Variety". It was the first season to feature Ellen DeGeneres as a judge, the first without Paula Abdul and the second with Kara DioGuardi.
For much of season nine, many panels of experts felt pretty confident predicting that Crystal Bowersox could (and should) win the competition. Even going into Tuesday night's finale, and especially after it, prognosticators felt like the former busker from Northern Ohio would be the next Idol. But Lee Dewyze pulled a victory by an unrevealed margin of votes — the response was pretty universal: Yeah, we thought Crystal should win but figured that Lee would. Lee DeWyze took the crown, though his victory was largely overshadowed by Simon Cowell's farewell.
When the singing competition debuted in 2002, with the British music producer at the helm of its judging panel, TV audiences were taken aback by his tart-tongued candour. Cowell's scathing honesty was unusual for prime-time American audiences, who were used to seeing reality-show hosts mollycoddle contestants. He became not only an American TV star but an archetype: the cranky a-hole. Seeing Simon take down pop-music poseurs every week was one of the main reasons people tuned into American Idol and turned it into a ratings juggernaut.
At times, Cowell has seemed to relish his partypooper status a bit too much -- he knows his role all too well, and actually seems buoyed when the audience greets him with boos. But to simply see him as American Idol's designated naysayer is too easy. For one thing, Cowell has had a well-documented career producing pop music, so his opinion actually carries weight. Secondly, he's been the sole person on the American Idol panel who has been consistently articulate and constructive.
Now back to the show's performances - also taking center stage was a string of high-profile performances, including ones from Janet Jackson, who sang a new ballad "Nothing" and got her groove on for "Nasty"; Christina Aguilera, who transitioned from "Fighter" to Bionic single "You Lost Me"; and Bret Michaels, visibly worn down from his health issues. He told MTV News backstage that he hadn't cleared his "Idol" duet with third-place finisher Casey James on " Every Rose Has Its Thorns" with his doctors. There were also sights of all the past Idol winners...minus David Cook?? Along with other season's contestants in a tribute song to Simon.
By the time the winner was announced, there was no more emotion to give...certainly not that of absolute elation. Except maybe for Lee and a few close friends and relatives.