‘Idol’ Judges, Producers Discuss Season 4 Changes

Jan 18, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Speaking Monday at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour, “American Idol” judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul responded to questions about the change in the reality music show’s format, which guarantees that six male singers and six female singers will end up in the final round of competition for a recording contract.

“The talent this season is better than all three seasons put together,” Mr. Jackson said, dismissing claims that men, who were not strong performers last season, would take places away from more talented women, who dominated the top 12 in 2003-04. The show is also expanding the number of early audition episodes, which will now include guest celebrity judges, including musicians Brandy, Kenny Loggins and Gene Simmons.

Ms. Abdul said last season’s win by Fantasia Barrino raised the bar in terms of generating interest from potential contestants.

“There is something magical about this season,” Ms. Abdul said. “She kind of woke up the ones skeptical about auditioning.”

Mr. Cowell said one of the goals, other than the rule changes, will be to surprise the audience.

“If we repeated season two, which I still think was the best ‘American Idol’ for me, because it was unpredictable, then I think the show can be as good,” he said. “There is always a decline on the fourth season, and we want to be No. 1. I’ve always described this as a musical Super Bowl.”

“Idol” executive producer Nigel Lythgoe said that unlike last season, where 12 finalists were picked from 32 semi-finalists in groups of eight, the judges will pick 24 finalists-half male, half female-and have the audience eliminate two males and two females for three weeks.

“We will be seeing these people continue, not waiting five weeks for them to come back,” Mr. Lythgoe said.

Executive producer Ken Warwick reiterated the producers’ claims from last season that the telephone voting system was fair and efficient. In the past, critics have complained that speed-dialers, excessive busy signals and a calling time frame that favored Hawaii (the home of 2004 finalist Jasmine Trias) may have influenced the vote. Mr. Warwick said the producers had looked into all the allegations and proven they were not a factor.

“There is nothing wrong with the process,” he said.

Executive producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz said the age limit, which was raised from 24 to 28, brings in a more experienced contestant.

In addition, host Ryan Seacrest said the show will feature him going to the home towns of contestants to get a better idea of their everyday lives.

“The bond is going to be established earlier, along with the (introduction of the) contestant,” he said.