PASADENA, Calif. — This …. is American Idol. Again.
Less than two years after Fox canceled the long-running, one-time mega-hit (high price tag, low ratings), the grandaddy of reality singing competitions is back on ABC.
Ryan Seacrest, already in the Disney family on Live with Kelly and Ryan, is back as host. And for the show’s 16th season, there’s an all-new lineup of judges from a variety of music genres: Pop singer Katy Perry, country’s Luke Bryan and R&B crooner Lionel Richie.
Seacrest told the Television Critics Association Monday that it’s essentially the same show that returns March 11, airing Sundays and Mondays, with new faces at the judges’ table.
“American Idol and I have always circled each other, and it just hasn’t been the right timing,” Perry said, expressing a desire to mentor, not dis (a not-subtle knock at Simon Cowell, whom she later called her favorite judge). “No one’s here to say ‘(you) suck,’ or anything negative … It’s about finding an Idol, bringing that dream to life once again.”
Bryan says it simply “felt like it was going to be a blast to be a part of.”
And Richie says contestants are looking for mentors as he did, to Marvin Gaye or Stevie Wonder, just “without the millions of people” watching. “We’ve never done this before; we have a learning curve” in crafting reactions to singers, both good and bad.
Executive producer Trish Kinane said “we weren’t looking for another Simon Cowell, another Randy (Jackson),” but says Perry has been blunt, if not mean, in her assessments. She also says Idol will continue its move away from putting “borderline, unstable people on to laugh at them. We want the humor, but we don’t want the exploitation.”
ABC is making a big, expensive gamble on the show — Perry’s salary alone has been widely reported at $25 million — to help jumpstart its third-place primetime lineup.
But the big question remains: Can Idol mint stars like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood as it once did? Perry hopes so, even as NBC’s rival The Voice considers that an optional side effect. “Literally, we are wasting our time if we do not find another star,” Perry says. “Americans need a real legit American Idol.”
Says Seacrest: “The legacy of this show is important to…