American Idol was the series that started it all when it comes to musical competitions on network TV, but the former ratings juggernaut has been losing viewers so consistently for years that news of the show’s cancellation was no huge shocker. Luckily for fans who have been sticking with American Idol through thick and thin, the series ended after 15 seasons on a strong note. The two-hour musical extravaganza drew in 12.94 million viewers, which was the best result for a season finale on American Idol in three years. Trent Harmon is the last performer to win the title of American Idol, but Fox was the real winner of the episode.
The 12.94 million viewers drew in a 3.0 in the valuable 18–49 age demographic, according to Deadline. In addition to scoring Idol its top ratings for a finale since 2013, the numbers also marked the high for all of Season 15, beating out the premiere's previous high mark of 10.96 million viewers. The finale launched Fox to finishing first among the major four networks.
Compared to the staggering 38.06 million viewers and demo rating of 16.8 from the Season 2 finale, the numbers for the Season 15 aren’t all that impressive. Compared to the Season 14 finale’s numbers of 7.7 million and 1.6 rating, however, Season 15 went out as strongly as could be hoped. TV definitely isn't the same now.
Frankly, it would have been embarrassing for all involved if the Season 15 finale ended with anything less than a marked increase. American Idol pulled out all the stops in its final episode and did everything short of flinging song-covering kitchen sinks out into the crowd. Familiar faces from seasons past appeared, such as Kelly Clarkson, and judges Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban all performed. President Barack Obama even had a hand in the spectacle with a pre-taped video message.
Season 15 has been touted as The Farewell Season, so big names from years past have been popping up periodically. Some of the biggest surprises of the final season and finale, however, aren’t in the superstars that Fox managed to bring in to say goodbye. American Idol also brought back relatively obscure individuals from earlier years, which made for fun trivia for long-time fans and some glorious “WTF?” reactions from more recent viewers. After all, who aside from Brian Dunkleman really remembered that Ryan Seacrest ever had a co-host named Brian Dunkleman? I’m not quite sure that anybody needed William Hung back as a reminder of his viral rendition of “She Bangs” from Season 3, though.
The finale wouldn’t have felt right if the three original judges hadn’t made it back for an appearance. American Idol has brought some great talents into the mainstream, but it’s hard to imagine that it would have gained the early following that it did without the dynamic of Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson. The trio that started it all dropping by for the end of it all made for a fitting conclusion that deserved its respectable ratings.
And now we wait for the eventual reboot.