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Rocker David Cook named new 'American Idol'

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When David Cook was announced as the winner of "American Idol" Wednesday night at the Nokia theater, the most dramatic upset in the show's history was just another twist in a season that has tested the still-vibrant franchise.

The 25-year-old became the first performer in the rock music mold to win, amassing 56% of 96 million votes, to 44% for 17 year old prodigy David Archuleta, who sings in the pop balladeer style that had previously dominated "Idol."

Before the verdict was announced, Judge Simon Cowell thanked both for being perhaps the "nicest" contestants the show has seen, underscoring the fact that the Fox hit has achieved its success with a G-rated strategy that reaches across cultural divides of all types - ethnic, economic, generational, even musical.

With network television and the music industry both up against a fractured audience and new forms of media, Cook and runner-up Archuleta became standard bearers for today's broad-based popular culture. "Idol" remains the only show able to consistently deliver vast numbers of viewers, even eclipsing the Oscars.

However, after a season in which the series came under fire for various offstage controversies and suffered a mid-season sag in its ratings, television's titan stands at a crossroads. It remains to be seen whether this year's ratings dip is a one year phenomenon or the first step on the inevitable downward spiral all successful TV shows must eventually face.

For the moment, Fox network brass are sufficiently concerned that they have made public statements promising major, though as yet unspecified, changes when the show returns in January. With broad-based musical hits becoming harder and harder to generate, the Idol machine's ability to fulfill its original mission of creating "the next pop star" has also been called into question. Some, such as Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson, have gone on to stardom, but several others have not mustered major careers.

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The show has always been subjected to the sharp news lens normally reserved for Presidential candidates or jail-bound starlets, and season seven saw Idol seemingly struggle at times to control its own storyline. In past years, the show has been remarkably successful at framing the terms of the debate, bringing its hiccups onto the screen and showing a willingness to poke fun at itself.

This year, with the internet-driven media ever more unleashed, the show has had to grapple with several sensitive storylines. There were reports that Archuleta's father was banned from backstage for interfering with the production, and eyebrows were raised when a seemingly off-kilter judge Paula Abdul rendered a verdict on a performance that had not occurred yet.

Still, the bigger audiences returned for what was billed as the strongest finals match-up in years. Archuleta, who himself was practically weaned on the show, having watched since he was 10 years old, had often seemed invincible, with technically flawless renditions of pop favorites.

But Cook, who at one point was told by Cowell that he was without charisma, surged with a string of rock reimaginations of such hits as "Billie Jean" that drew massive ovations from audiences.

The show seems in the finale to have rebounded from its mid-season ratings dip. "American Idol" premiered to an audience of 33.5 million total viewers, according to figures from Nielsen Media Research -- putting it ahead of the Oscars telecast to become the season's number two rated program, trailing only the Superbowl. But the ratings subsequently tumbled, falling as low as 21.8 million for one show - the lowest figure in three years.

Still, even that is a number most TV shows would kill for.

Season Seven's young contestants also reflected the new, multi-ethnic face of America: Three of the four finalists - Jason Castro, Syesha Mercado and Archuleta -- had at least partly Latino origins, yet the huge differences in their styles (laidback hippie crooning for Castro, cerebral jazz for Mercado and soulful ballads for Archuleta) also revealed the great diversity within this demographic.

In a time when ever edgier reality television shows dominate the network airwaves, "American Idol" almost seems like a pristine throwback to a gentler time. While other competition shows are routinely driven by the spectacle of contestants who are at each others' throats -- often quite literally -- with hair pulling and name calling being the norm, the two "Idol" finalists took the stage this week gushing with good will for each other. Cook even declared Tuesday that "the competition is over. It's all about having fun now."

The atmosphere of camaraderie amidst the weekly deathblows is certainly an intentional part of the "Idol" universe, with a crew that seems much more like a happily family relishing their work than the typical TV production staff. It may be this spirit of fun yet gentle competition that has helped "Idol" retain its status as the one show on television that still attracts entire families, across the generational divide.

However, as producers look ahead and consider the ratings sag of this year, part of their calculation must be: How much do viewers want fights and freak-shows instead of a face-off based on pure talent?

While this year's group was considered by many commentators to be the most talented overall in the show's history, the uniformity of talent deprived the show of the train-wreck interest summoned, for example, by last year's contestant Sanjaya Malakar. Viewers enjoyed the spectacle of his weekly public belly flops.

Nonetheless, with an end of the year ratings rebound and a handful of talents -- including the two finalists -- with seemingly very strong commercial potential, Idol obituaries may soon look extremely premature.

-Richard Rushfield

--Scott Collins contributed reporting for this story

Can't get enough of 'American Idol'? Join us for a chat at 11:30 a.m. PST.

 
Comments () | Archives (143)

i will sleep good tonight, im so thrilled that cook won. even though i liked david a, cook will sell more records

The only reason I would ever watch this show again is if David Archuleta is a guest performer. The scripting and manipulation done by the producers has left me feeling ill. I do not begrudge David Cook his win. However, it seems rather empty given the campaigning done by Simon Cowell as he traveled the talk show circuit the past few days telling everyone that he wanted Cook to win. How unethical is that? It was clear to me that he was trying to light a fire under Cook's fans last evening when it was plain to see that David Archuleta had won the night. David Cook will do well, at least in the short term. It will be interesting to see how he fares up against Daughtry. I predict that David Archuleta's career will ultimately have a broader scope and a worldwide appeal. It's kind of funny, but whenever I have read reviews of Josh Groban's concerts, the comments have been remarkably similar to what I have seen with regards to David Archuleta. In other words, yes he sings gloriously but he comes across as "lackluster" and "dull." Well, Josh Groban has apparently been "boring" people all across the globe now for quite some time at sold-out venues. David Archuleta, you are my American Idol.

I will never watch again.. it's a scam. There is no way David C should have won. Something is definitely wrong. People voting for David A, were probably honest hardworking folks, who did their one vote. This is a sad day for the show, just like when Carly was voted off early. I hope DA is the new Daughtry (not sound wise, but success wise), and shows them whose boss. I am so disappointed.

Congratulations to David Cook. You were a class act all the way through and we applaud your talent and tenacity. Your work is cut out for you now! We wish you well! Bravo!

I hate this so much, the only reason i have watched american idol all season is for D. A. and now its a big upset, Now i am upset with america and i want to move to sweden!!! because every year the person i want to win gets 2nd, so maybe if i moved to, i.d.k., lets say China or somthing, the person i would want to win would get first!! Stating my opinion, I WISH THAT D.C.'S BRO DIDNT TRY OUT, CAUSE THEN D.A. WOULD OF WON!!! Gosh, this makes me so mad!!! BUT ANY WAYS DAVID ARCHALETA IS MY IDOL!!! AND ALWAYS WILL BE!!! I LOVE DAVID A.!!!!!!!!!

Please kick Paula off next year...Please!!!!!!!!!!

Omg!
That is the most retardest thing ever.
Sure David cook is a good singer
But there has been other ppl like that on the show that look like him and sound exactly the same (chris daughtry, bo bice.) plenty of rockers have been on the show.
And David Archuleta is different and adorable
He is so sweet and his voice is truly remarkable,
I am going to buy his album, God luck David A!

"David Egg Head Cook" ahhaha you're an imbecile! Cook deserved it. He's more charismatic and engaging, plus he wasn't raised by stage parents. Oh yeah, and there's that small detail that he has more passion. It's said that Archuleta's father has endorsements with Idol? Hmmm. Whatever. Now that the show is over, spend some time with your family, or go outside. Do something with yourself. There's more to worshiping false idols.

Love,
American Idle

i will sleep good tonight, im so thrilled that cook won. even though i liked david a, cook will sell more records

Out here on the westcoast heard the news! Right on David Cook! Rock Lives On!

To those skeptics that thought the producers sent Simon Cowell out to promote their agenda, where were they last night when Simon essentially proclaimed DA the winner. So inappropriate were Simon's remarks last night he apologized to Cook this evening.

That Cook won is a reflection of the shows broad demographics, and the desire to see someone with the charisma to "make it" move on irrespective of the fact that DA has the purest voice.

It's why Clay Aiken should have won(though I personally don't like him, he has a personality as well as a voice.

Thank God all the "babies" who crooned about DA didn't prevail

Was it me or was Ryan Seacrest's head super tiny compared to Cook's?

David Cook did his own thing, he brought a twist to almost every performance. making it his own.
DA just did karaoke that I can see at the local bar every week. when he releases his own cd mp3 etc DA will then show his brilliance. I believe David Cook will out sell most other idol winners and contestants. they're (David and David) both better than a lot of former idol contestants and winners. although the unseen try out contestants are in the thousands that could also become next years winner, and they don't make it before the 3 judges on the show. they get pre-empted
before they get a chance. some get contracts with big record producers and make it the old way.

This was NOT a shocker, to me anyway. I knew David Cook would win. He was simply the best!

I can not believe that David A did not win, I have heard that it was all "FIXED" so cook would win.. Very unfair as cook had previous recordings. That sucks, I won't be watching Idol again..

Well the question now is, How bad will DA get beat by little dad tonight?

Now here's something that never happened before--disappointed fans crying, "foul," "cheater," and declaring, "I'm done with American Idol." It's a such a part of the dynamic of the show that it isn't even surprising. Of course David Cook won. He is the guy that most of us will spend money to hear and it will be our own money and not the allowance from Mom and Dad. Young David is a very talented kid but he needs experience and a bit of living before he comes a performing artist. There is no doubt that he has a bright future though. But, David Cook is by far the best of the best and most deserving to be the new Idol.

David Cook, even though I was not always a fan of his, deserved to win. He has stage savvy, a great voice, charisma, great eyes, and originality that David Archuleta did not have. David A.'s voice is awesome and as a teen I loved his style of singing. He will go places, no doubt, because he is so talented, but David Cook is the true American Idol.
I am so happy for you, David C., because you are at the age in life where winning this is so important. DA has plenty of years ahead of him to prove his talent and win big.
Congratulations both David's, you are great!!

Good Lord, some of you kids take this stuff so seriously. (I'm assuming your kids because most of you can't spell) It's definately entertaining, but for those of you frothing at the mouth (that means 'foaming' for you youngsters) take a step back and a breathe and accept that sometimes disappointment is a fact of life. Either way, top 2 on American Idol ain't bad. Both David's undoubtably have talent (albeit in different areas) and I bet both go on to make something further of themselves. Feel better? Now stop crying and go to bed.

I am so glad David Cook won! Him singing " always be my baby" is my ringtone! I was so excited my nose startded to bleed! (random huh?)

 
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