Simon Cowell’s ‘Idol’ Departure: The End of An Era

by | May 25, 2010 at 5:02 PM | American Idol, Eye on Idol, TV News

Simon Cowell (FOX)

Simon Cowell (FOX)

Eight years ago, Americans were shocked and outraged by an unknown, black T-shirt-wearing Brit who deigned to tell us what to think.

This week, he bids farewell to the show that made him a household name and, at once, arguably the most hated and most admired personality on television, and we’re not really sure what to think — or what we’ll ever think again.

Simon Cowell and ‘American Idol‘ over the past nine seasons created a television sensation unlike any other, and as Cowell moves on after Wednesday night’s season finale and we’ll soon find out that the man is likely bigger than the show.

I’m not trying to be rude, but ‘American Idol’ without Simon Cowell is just a talent show.

In the summer of 2002, Fox’s unceremonious little singing show began to grow in buzz as word of this mean, harsh, obnoxious and nasty judge began to spread.

By the time the second season of ‘Idol’ premiered and Kelly Clarkson was launching a legitimate pop career, people tuned in to see what the fuss was about, and Cowell rarely disappointed. When singers were bad, he went for the the jugular. Cowell made his real mark in Season 2, unleashing his scathing criticisms, suggesting that singers fire and sue their vocal coaches, encouraging them to look at other avenues of employment, and mocking their dress, looks and weight.

It was unlike anything we’d ever seen on TV, and we loved it. That season provided the first of the “best of the worst” episodes, which highlighted the worst singers who were often the target of Cowell’s harshest critiques.

There was a time when Cowell’s critics were calling for his ouster, and now that he’s leaving many believe the show won’t survive. Either way, it is unlikely to dominate the ratings as it has for much of this decade.

Take a look back at Simon’s meanest ‘Idol’ moments!

Cowell turned himself into the heart of the show and TV’s most trusted arbiter of taste. And how did he manage to get us to trust him so? The same way he’s done everything else: He told us to.

For all the boos and jeers tossed his direction when he’s critical, most every ‘Idol’ fan hangs on Cowell’s word. He rules that clean-up spot on the judge’s table like a Roman emperor in a gladiator arena with the deciding thumb up or down. It’s nice to get good comments from the rest of the judges on the panel, but everyone knows the thoughts of the others — Randy Jackson, Ellen Degeneres, Kara DioGuardi and even Paula Abdul — were just the opening act for the headliner. And in the ‘Idol’ arena, Simon’s word is law.

With every season, Cowell grew more and more confident and secure. The more comfortable he got, the lower his neckline plunged, the more edgy the criticisms got, and the more precious his praise became.

It stings when he calls your favorite singer “horrific,” “awful” or “ghastly.” But when Cowell delivers his support, it’s gold.

Now, it’s gone.

In nine seasons of television, Cowell transformed himself from a complete unknown who many are still are surprised to learn was behind albums by professional wrestlers, the ‘Mighty Morphin Power Rangers’ and the Teletubbies. Now, he’s justifiably the highest-paid man on TV and the face of the ‘Idol.’

Sure, he’ll be back in a little over a year on his American version of ‘The X Factor’ on Fox. But there is sadness in watching the end of an era as Cowell leaves ‘American Idol.’

If I’m being honest, it just won’t be the same without him.

How do you think ‘Idol’ will fare without Simon? Will you tune in to ‘The X Factor’? Share your thoughts and favorite Simon memories in the comments!