Once upon a time, American Idol was known for spotlighting “bad” auditions during its original Fox run, but when it returns for its revival season on ABC, that signature segment won’t be front and center.
“You might have noticed in the past few years, we haven’t really majored on people who are really bad,” executive producer Trish Kinane said at ABC’s Television Critics Association press tour on Monday, “because one of the key things about the show is it shouldn’t feel manipulated or fake because 15 years ago, nobody had ever seen it and it was funny. Viewers know now, they’ve all watched all these shows in 15 years, and it doesn’t feel comfortable to put borderline unstable people up and laugh at them.”
“But that’s not to say we don’t want humor in Idol,” Kinane continued. “Humor is a very important part of Idol, so if someone’s eccentric, slightly different or if they’ve got a different voice or if they do something we don’t normally hear, we’ll put that up, that’s fun. We want the humor but we don’t want the exploitation.”
A lot has been said about how different this new iteration of Idol, with judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan, but the changes to the format — if there are any — appear to be minimal.
“It’s different because of these personalities,” returning host Ryan Seacrest said. “The show at its core works in format and works in premise. We go out and we look for young, talented people. They see the judges. They will come back to Hollywood and then they have to step up. There’s been a lot of talk about how is this show different. You’ve got three different faces, you have different contestants, but to change the show drastically would be a mistake.”
As the OG Idol alum, Seacrest said that it was important for the show to find three capable judges who would “give the franchise what it deserves because the legacy of this franchise is important to the fans, it’s important to us [since] we’ve worked on it for a long time.”
As for why the judges chose to be a part of the panel, they each had their own stories. Richie shared that he was at a point in his career where he was being offered videos teaching students about the art of making music.
“And then I got the call [for Idol], thank God,” he said. “All the things I was gonna put in my master class, I’m actually going to be able to tell the students. I consider myself the instructor.”
Perry revealed her approach to Idol, though her fellow judges hinted that she’s “blunt” with the contestants — in a nice way.
“American Idol and I have always been circling each other and it never has been the right timing. Now, after 10 years and a lot of aging and learning and providence, I can take that information and mentor and give constructive criticism,” Perry said. “No one’s here to say, ‘I suck.’ We’re here to really find a star, and if someone isn’t a star, delicately help repurpose them on a path that’s going to be right for them.”
“The American Idol endeavor felt like it was going to be a blast to be a part of,” Bryan added. “It was never a moment’s thought for me because I get inspired. I judge and I watch this like a fan of music.”
But ultimately, the goal is to find the next American Idol.
“Literally, we are wasting our time if we do not find a star,” Perry said. “America needs another star. They need a real, legit American Idol. It’s a crowded space and I take it really seriously, sometimes to my detriment.”
American Idol premieres on Sunday, March 11 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.