|Season 13 judges- Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr.|
Season 13 of American Idol is all about the judges – but, writes The Wraps Jethro Nededog, that might just save the show
Television talent shows like to say that it’s not about the judges. Of course, every season that’s proven wrong. American Idol returned for its 13th season two weeks ago ( M-Net Series Reality, Fridays at 8.30pm) and its producers teased small changes before the show started, which we have seen come into play during the auditions.
And from the two-hour premiere episode, I can say that this season is really about the judges, because they set the tone of the show.
Following a season of awkward, at times dangerously heated, moments between last season’s feuding judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban is breathing easier sitting alongside returning judge Jennifer Lopez and guest mentor-turned-judge Harry Connick Jr.
Fox’s American Idol team re-emphasised how well the judges get along and laid out a few changes for the new season of this long-running competition.
“They’re fun, they get along, it’s going to be great,” host Ryan Seacrest blurted out at the recent American Idol Television Critics Association winter panel. The new trio works for several reasons, one being that JLo is the lone diva. Arguably, Connick, a former modern jazz child prodigy, can exhibit diva-like qualities, but he also forces this panel to focus on craft and musicality. That in turn makes for a more discerning panel. Lopez rises to Connick’s challenge and Urban is finally able to express himself – thus allowing for better talent to make it through to Hollywood.
If you’ve followed the news at all you’ll know that the path to this point wasn’t easy and there are several bodies left in the wake of the circus that was last season.
“We studied the show from the talent search to the finale,” said executive producer Trish Kinane, adding that the result was “really refreshing”.
At the top of the list of changes: former judge Randy Jackson has a new role as mentor on the show, a role previously held by Jimmy Iovine.
A new round has been added that will represent a two-day workshop between the contenders and Jackson. Other new rounds announced include a “Hollywood or Home” week in which contestants who believe their audition was good enough to get them to Hollywood will be considered one more time. Some will have to perform again, others will just be sent home. Finally, there’s “Rush Week,” a three-night event in which the top 15 men and women perform live for the first time for America’s vote, which will reduce the contestants to the top 13 finalists. In addition, the show has added “The Chamber”, which captures the moments before contenders walk into their auditions.
The show has also expanded the pre-cleared song list and revamped theme weeks to be more reflective of how a song speaks to the performer.
The Chamber just seems gimmicky, ineffective and unnecessary. It’s very Hunger Games. Plus, a box with cameras in it doesn’t replace Seacrest’s pre-audition interviews – no matter how space-age that box looks.
But this season is all about the judges. And that’s okay with me, because I think they’re going to make it truly competitive and emotional again.
Thinking back to the first season, I actually took notes in order to remember who I wanted to vote for. It was truly thrilling to see Kelly Clarkson pull out some last-minute vocal tricks during the finale and nab the win. Music should be treated like a craft. TV shows should invoke emotion. And competition should be a battle.
And that’s what I think this set of judges will do for the show. – The Wrap
Catch American Idol XIII on M-Net Series Reality, Fridays at 8.30pm.