‘Idol’ debuts down steeply…again

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 14: (L-R) Musician Keith Urban, singer Jennifer Lopez, host Ryan Seacrest and singer Harry Connick Jr. arrive at the premiere of Fox's 'American Idol Xlll' at UCLA's Royce Hall on January 14, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Good chemistry does not necessarily make for good math. American Idol found that out the hard way when the Fox singing contest returned for its 13th season with a genial new judging troika of Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and newcomer Harry Connick Jr.

The result: 15 million viewers and a 4.6 rating among adults 18-49. Those numbers would thrill most of the shows on TV, but you have to remember that for most of this century, Idol has been the Godzilla of the medium.

That’s the lowest premiere rating since the show’s first season, an unheralded summer launch. Does Justin still love Kelly? For the first time ever, the fall season debut of The Voice had a better rating than Idol. (It notched a 5.1 among 18-49s.)

Of course ratings are notoriously malleable. Sure, the numbers for the debut were down 23 percent from last year. But as Fox quickly pointed out, they were up 28 percent from last season’s dismal finale, won by…. You looked! …Candice Glover. As the network explained, that’s the first time since season 10 that the debut has returned higher than the previous season’s finale. So we’re guessing that’s good news?

Hey, if word of mouth will help, we were wild about Harry and we were fully prepared not to be.

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