It could not have had a less auspicious beginning. Season 8 of "American Idol" came out of the gates in a hailstorm of controversy, missteps, shake-ups and wildly uneven episodes. After a seventh season in which the reigning juggernaut of entertainment showed its first signs of mortality as the ratings eroded, the buzz among showbiz cognoscenti was that the long-awaited decline of "Idol" had begun.
And in its early days, Season 8 seemed on the way to fulfilling that prophecy. The preseason was dominated by news of format changes, including the addition of uncertain new elements (such as Kara DioGuardi as a fourth judge) to the most potent chemical formula in modern television.
When the show premiered in January, viewers saw an audition tour that seemed to find few instant superstars; a Hollywood Week heavy on the dramatics of emotionally unstable contestants; a semifinal round in which the contestants were massacred in a brutal killing field; and the dismissal of one promising contestant, Joanna Pacitti, under a cloud (because she knew executives associated with "Idol").
But here we are just a few months later, and, on the day of the coronation of the winner -- judging by the coverage in any newspaper, magazine or TV morning show, as well as the chatter on friends' Twitter feeds and Facebook status updates -- reports of "American Idol's" death have clearly been greatly exaggerated, if not made out of whole cloth.
Therefore, the most remarkable thing about Season 8 of "American Idol" is that America continues to talk about the show. On the few prime-time shows that last this long, Season 8 is usually a time for desperate Hail Mary attempts to squeeze one more year out of the franchise.
At season's end, "American Idol" has once again produced a genuine phenomenon in Adam Lambert, ignited a host of cultural conversations around him, seen its greatest cliffhanger of a finale (Lambert vs. Kris Allen) in years and kept 26 million Americans on the edge of their seats -- speculating not just on the fate of its contestants, but also talking about its judges and the very format of the show.
All that said, in Season 9, we must declare that it is time to take action against the tween girl overlords who control this show. In three years, only one female has made it to the finals (Jordin Sparks) and this year all of the Top 3 were male.
Must this show hang a sign on the door reading, "Only cute boys need apply"?