BEVERLY HILLS — Fox didn’t nab a quick American Idol — it’s headed to ABC — but the network is getting back into the singing competition game with The Four.
The new, shorter-run series, announced Wednesday at the Television Critics Association press tour, will premiere in 2018.
The show will start at nearly the end point of traditional music competitions,opening with four singers culled from thousands of auditions. The four singers will have to defend their spots against challengers.
After years of declining ratings, Fox canceled Idol in 2016. ABC this year announced a revival of the show for early next year, surprising some who believe it’s too soon. Katy Perry will serve as the lead judge with Ryan Seacrest returning as host.
Fox Television Group Chairman Dana Walden took a veiled swipe at other singing competitions, mainly NBC’s The Voice, saying The Four is designed to produce a big music star, a feat that hasn’t happened since the earlier seasons of Idol.
“The prize is unique, designed to discover and build the career of a new music star, and that’s something we feel has been missing lately in music competitions,” she told TV writers Wednesday. “They’ve become much more about celebrity panels and much less about star-making.”
When asked who had made a mistake — Fox in ending Idol or ABC in bringing it back so soon — Walden immediately said, “ABC.”
“The economics were terrible for us,” with high costs, and producers insisted Fox be “locked into those judges, who were excellent but contributed to the very high cost of the show” as ratings plunged.
We wanted to “send the show off for some period of time,” Walden said. The final season “was a time to celebrate the show, designate it as the farewell season” and then wait for a longer time before reviving it, she said. “The question was, would you ever like to have American Idol back? The answer is yes, but we thought it was very fraudulent to our viewers” to bring it back so soon.
“We were a little back on our heels because we didn’t want it to come back so soon. We weren’t as aggressive” in bidding, Walden said. “As for the rest of it, they’ll be dealing with all the things we didn’t want to deal with.”