After a season more notable for its cat-fighting judges panel than for its talent pool, American Idol is hoping a spate of changes, including new judge Harry Connick Jr., will revive the flagging show.
Season 12 ended with its finale drawing just 14.3 million viewers -- its lowest ever -- and averaged fewer than 10 million viewers for each episode. So the show shuffled not only its judge's panel, but also replaced longtime producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick with Swedish Idol boss Per Blankens.
"Who would have known that the panel wouldn’t really work out that looked so good on paper,” Blankens said, referring to last year's lineup, which included Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey. “That’s why we made sure we were not just going to take any name. We wanted to make sure this was a trio that would like each other’s company. ”
Blankens said he had Connick, along with returning judges Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez, got together for dinner before the auditions to make sure they would get along.
The overall format for the show will receive some tweaks as well: contestants will be allowed to use instruments, the middle rounds will be condensed into two hours, and the results shows in the second half of the season will be cut to a half-hour each.
Longtime judge Randy Jackson will take on the role of working with contestants in a two-day workshop on song selection, style and other strategies.
Connick, who previously served as a mentor on the show, said he thought his experiences would make him a good fit -- and a good balance to the other judges.
"We’re completely different. We’re different brains, different personalities, different philosophies," he said. "I think what I bring to it is I have a lot of experience as a player, as a singer and as a kind of an overall entertainer that’s unique to my own life. It’s like the movies I’ve done are different than the ones that Jennifer’s done and the concerts I’ve played are different than Keith’s."
The 13th season of American Idol debuts Wednesday at 8 p.m. on Fox.
[New York Post] [SacBee]