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Season 12 of American Idol, featuring new judges Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, and Keith Urban, premiered Wednesday night. While the new judges, namely Mariah and Nicki, gave us bloggers a lot to blog about over the past few months, they failed to increase ratings for the show. 

An average of 17.9 million total viewers tuned in to the premiere. That's down 19% compared with last season and a new low for the reality show. The decline among viewers age 18 to 49 – the most sought-after group – was also 19%. In fact, American Idol's ratings have been going down, down, down since 2009. 

Mike Darnell, the president of Fox's alternative programming, remains optimistic about American Idol's future. "We beat everybody last night, and we're way ahead of The Voice [season three debuted to 12.3 million viewers]. It’s by far the biggest reality show, [and] I feel like there's a real shot at closing that deficit over the next few weeks.” 

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Funny how Darnell doesn't even mention The X Factor. Poor X Factor the little engine that could… Simon Cowell thinks he can, thinks he can, thinks he can. 

Darnell adds, "[Season 12] reminds me of when the panel was at its peak and Simon was there and there were disagreements all the time. I think we've sort of brought back that magic.” Magic might be reaching… but the judges are definitely present.. with Nicki clearly running the show. Personally, I'm rather enjoying Keith's yummy accent and witty sense of humor. 

American Idol Tell-all Elimination Night Is Now Available!

EW's Annie Barrett notes, "Nicki had completely taken over the panel — shouting out directions to the contestants and always speaking first. You know, it’s generally fine if someone feels the need to do that. Compared to the autopilot judging on The X Factor and even Idol last season, I am thrilled to have someone in the driver’s seat, and beyond ecstatic that all four judges appeared to be awake and even [gasp!] interested in what was happening. The question is whether millions of American Idol viewers will accept and enjoy that our season 12 chauffeur appears to be rainbow sherbet wig enthusiast.”

American Idol's Charlotte auditions (the infamous Mariah and Nicki feud) air next week. If the video of Mariah and Nicki's heated exchange was leaked simply to create buzz, will it pay off? Will you watch? 

TELL US – WATCHING IDOL THIS SEASON? ARE THE JUDGES WORKING FOR YOU? 

Photo credit: Fox

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