American Idol started this season with some major challenges. Ratings for the once-unstoppable Fox hit were down, and there had been a myriad of changes at the judges table over the past few years. The Wrap reported in January that last season’s finale, the culmination of a lengthy and brutal audition process, posted ratings that were 30 percent down from the prior season’s finale in the coveted 18-49 demographic.
Keith Urban, taking another turn this year as judge alongside Harry Connick, Jr., and Jennifer Lopez, has a good feeling about this season and the mix of people that are making it work, he told Billboard.
“[I]t just feels like a good energy. With Jen [Lopez] and Harry [Connick Jr.] and Ryan [Seacrest] and I, and Scott [Borchetta] on board right now [replacing Randy Jackson as this season’s mentor], it feels like there’s a clarity and center to everything that’s happening, so hopefully it’s coming off that way ’cause it’s really fun to do.”
If a recent article in Vulture is any indication, it is coming off as Urban hoped. Writer Margaret Lyons detailed how this season things are coming together better than they have in a long time in the history of the Idol franchise.
“‘Idol’ has been reborn as a more cheerful, stable version of its former self. Gone are the humiliating audition clips, and in their stead are just legitimately good auditions. Not everyone makes it, because life is just one big Dumpster fire, but overwhelmingly everyone seems to have a real shot. The judging is refreshingly sane and substantive… ‘Idol’ is supposed to be fun, and so far, this season is. A few lesser talents have already skated through, and my personal favorite contestant has already been eliminated, which brought me to tears. Actual tears, real tears, from my tear holes.”
Changes to Idol this season include a combined performance and results show, reducing Idol’s time on-air. The path to the top 24 had a couple of extra barriers as well: a sit-down interview with the judges and a performance at the House of Blues for the top 48. The viewers will vote first on upcoming performances that originate in Detroit and not California.
This season has had some interesting and pleasing surprises, such as a featured contestant who ultimately turned down his golden ticket to Hollywood and the return of former Idol runner-up Adam Lambert as guest judge.
Lyons seemed to think the re-made Idol has a shot at success, even if some of its imitators, like The X Factor, have been cancelled.
“Talent contests are still good television, ‘Idol’ is still a perfectly cromulent concept, and everyone loves a good toe-tapper, so gosh darn it, let’s put on a show.”
American Idol airs on Fox.
[American Idol cast image courtesy of Getty]