Two years isn't a long absence for a show that supposedly ended, but “American Idol” is back.
The most notable differences as the singing competition returns? A new network, since after its 15 seasons on Fox, it begins its ABC run tonight; and a new panel of top music stars as judges, with Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie now handling those roles. Still, many of the show's essential elements have been retained, including Ryan Seacrest as host.
“It's different, obviously, because of these personalities,” says Seacrest, who also will continue his weekday “Live With Regis and Kelly” co-host duties, “but the show, at its core, works in format and works in premise. We go out, we look for young, talented people. They see the judges. (Those chosen) come back to Hollywood and then, they have to step up. To change the show drastically in terms of format, I think, would be a mistake.”
The first celebrity signed for the new “Idol,” Perry was a guest judge on the earlier version and has scored a major payday – reportedly, $25 million – for joining the program full time.
“'American Idol' and I have always been circling each other,” she says, “and it just hasn't been the right timing. And now, after 10 years and a lot of aging and learning and providence, I can take all that information and really mentor and give constructive criticism, because that's really what we do. We're here to really find a star and, if someone isn't a star, we delicately help repurpose them on the path that's going to be good for them.”
Richie also likes using his experience to benefit new talents. Explaining that he's been asked to do projects offering career advice, the winner of four Grammy Awards and an Oscar admits he considered turning “American Idol” down ... “and then I realized, '(It's about) reaching people.'
“The beautiful part about this is the judging. We're artists, and we know exactly how to critique talent, so all the things that I was going to put in my video and my CD and my master class, I'm actually going to be able to tell the 'students' in person. I consider myself the instructor, basically.”
For Bryan, signing up for “American Idol” came down to a simple gut reaction. “I just felt like it was going to be a blast to be a part of,” he reflects. “I've had the opportunity to do some TV stuff through the years and turned it down, because I always focused on touring in my little kind of country-music world that I just kind of figured out.
“And then, 'American Idol' happens, and I jumped right on it. It was never a moment's thought for me, because I get inspired (by it). I'm in there on the emotional ride with these kids.”