With Connick, Lopez and Urban confirmed as American Idol judges, can Fox fix show without changing anything?
Was the lesson Fox learned from American Idol last season that “new stuff is too scary?”
That’s the question at hand following news that the network has confirmed hiring Harry Connick Jr. and Jennifer Lopez to join Keith Urban on the judges dais, with longtime judge Randy Jackson moved over to contestant mentor.
As the once-gargantuan singing competition combats sinking ratings and growing criticism about content, producers seem to have responded with a new judge and mentor lineup filled with Idol veterans.
Connick, a longtime mentor from previous shows, has continually popped up as a contender for a judge's slot thanks to his easy rapport with the singers (Idol, true to past habits, took until the last minute to confirm him). Lopez, a judge in 2011 and 2012, returns alongside Urban, who notched his first season this spring.
Jackson, a judge since Idol's first season, takes record producer/executive Jimmy Iovine’s place as mentor to the young contestants (a move which may hurt; Iovine’s tough, direct commentary was often a needed antidote to the gauzy, soft observations of judges such as Lopez and Urban, who seemed too worried about looking mean to competitors.) Ace host Ryan Seacrest, one of the few elements of Idol most agree needs no tweaking, also returns.
Every one of the on camera regulars coming to the show in 2014 has been on the series before.
Which makes me wonder: Can Fox fix what ails Idol without really changing anything?
My hunch is that Fox and the other powers that be behind Idol may have admitted that the show’s days of dominating network TV like an 800-pound gorilla are gone. In that case, success lies in keeping longtime fans interested and stabilizing the show’s ratings so it remains a potent, if not gargantuan, program.
This year’s version of Idol, torn by infighting between new judges Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey, scored some of its lowest ratings in recent memory (finale was down 40 percent from 2012 and median age of viewers was 51, past the 18 to 49 advertiser sweet spot, according to the Hollywood Reporter).
So perhaps the show is now offering its version of comfort food to fans, passing up the danger of subjecting an untested celebrity to the maelstrom that is Idol’s white=-hiot spotlight.
Or perhaps they’ve just learned the lesson of its most potent competitor, The Voice; A judging panel that at least looks like it’s getting along is much more attractive to fans than a panel which doesn’t.
At least, for now.