Susan Pierce: Fox launches Season 8 of “American Idol” just three weeks from today. I was invited last week to participate in a media conference call with new “AI” executive producer Ken Warwick about the upcoming season.
As everybody knows, “Idol” is adding a new judge this season, but there are some new rules as well. Additionally, there will be no Idol Gives Back charity event.
Susan: Warwick said instead of picking 12 female and 12 male semifinalists from the Hollywood Round, 36 hopefuls will move on to the semifinal judging this season.
The producer said he realized “in doing 12 and 12, by the time we got down to the final eight, we’d been living with these kids for eight weeks already, and if any of them didn’t have fantastic characters it got a bit boring.”
Christine: He’s right about that. There are going to be some of these kids that have the personality of a wet rag, as we’ve seen in past seasons. Just because you can sing doesn’t mean you can entertain. Also, in reading the transcripts from the media conference I noticed that Warwick was quick to point out that it was actually him, not Nigel Barker, who produced the series in England. Little ego trip going on there?
Susan: The higher number of semifinalists is allowing “Idol” to reinstate a wild-card system.
When the 36 are selected, there will be three rounds of 12, Warwick said. Each week, the top man and top woman and the next highest vote-getter (boy or girl) will advance.
The fourth week will be wild-card week. The fourthhighest vote-getter from each of the three rounds will be brought back for a “do-over” along with anyone else the judges want to hear again (up to 10 singers.)
Christine: I think this is a great idea. I feel bad for the contestants because you know they get tired and stressed, and it’s really hard to perform and do your absolute best every time. So this will give someone who maybe wasn’t having their best day a chance they otherwise wouldn’t have.
Susan: Wonder if Paula Abdul will even be there for the wild-card round? MSNBC is reporting that Paula is dissatisfied with producers of the show and may not stay as long as the live rounds.
MORE QUALITY TIME
Susan: Remember how in the first seasons viewers saw more behind-the-scenes action with the semifinalists after the auditions ended each day? We knew who was cavorting in the pool instead of rehearsing, who was unhappy with their assigned trios and quartets, and who were serious contenders.
Warwick said there will be more of those shots again this year to help viewers become invested in their favorites. Also, there will be fewer weeks of those gimmicky, tone-deaf auditions to start the season.
Christine: Thank goodness! I can only take so much of the bad singers. The first season it was a little funny because it was new and something we really hadn’t seen before. After that it became sad and mean. It’s not necessary to make people look like fools in front of the whole county. Especially after the contestant-turned-stalker who committed suicide in front of Paula Abdul’s house a couple of months ago.
NEW FACE AT THE
Susan: Warwick was singing the praises of new judge Kara DioGuardi, saying that she has already added to viewer entertainment by ganging up with Paula Abdul to vote down Simon Cowell in some of the audition rounds.
“Once the new Idol has been chosen, Kara has always been instrumental in either writing for them, producing them, making an album with them or involved in the making of the album. She’s the best-qualified person to know what we’re looking for,” Warwick said.
Christine: I’ve heard that she’s opinionated, which will be refreshing. Paula is fun and cute, but let’s face it, she’s a flake. Randy has become moody, and Simon is, well ... Simon. So a fresh face and opinion should liven things up at the judges table.
NEW FACES WITH
Susan: This wasn’t in the media interview, but Internet spoilers are already leaking out on some of the singers who have made it to the Hollywood round. Among them: season 7 finalist Jason Castro’s brother, Michael; David Osmond, nephew of Donny and Marie; and Anna Kaelin, daughter of the voice coach of season 7 runner-up David Archuleta.
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...