It's back, but will it be better?
"American Idol" kicked off its new season on Wednesday, and clearly it won't be the same old song and dance. Changes are coming to the long-running Fox reality show-and we're not talking about the revamped judges' panel that includes Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick, Jr.
Check out these tweaks that are coming -- both onstage and behind the scenes -- to TV's favorite talent competition.
New blood. While longtime "Idol" producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick are out, Swedish "Idol producer Per Blankens and MTV veterans Jesse Ignjatovic and Evan Prager are in -- and are ready to freshen up the show's formula. The seven-time MTV Video Music Awards producers told The Hollywood Reporter that they "constantly try to think outside of the box and present things in a different way."
An "Idol" diary room? Move over, "Big Brother!" There will be a new element to the show called "The Chamber," an enclosed vestibule where the contestants will go right before it's their turn to audition in front of the judges. According to TV Guide, "Idol" exec producer Trish Kinane said of the pit stop: "Some people pray, some people sing, some people look under their arms to see if they're perspiring."
Dawgy day care. Get ready for a Randy Jackson boot camp, which will consist of a two-day workshop ahead of the live shows. "It's a new part of the show not done before," Kinane told critics at the TCA winter press tour. "Randy is going to be hosting a two-day workshop in which the kids who get through will be taught things like how to choose a song, what's your style, how do you want to look, and how to look after their voice."
Bye bye Burt Bacharach. It looks like this season's themes will be more relatable for the young contestants. The song list will be much longer and the dated themes will get a makeover. Kinane told Zap 2 It that the plan is to personalize the themes to the contestants. "We have expanded the song list; there are many more contemporary songs," she said. "We want to find out more about the kids and kind of mold the themes into songs that reveal something about them rather than tying them in to Burt Bacharach or the Bee Gees. It's very much more a choice in what they can pick."
Speed singing. The middle rounds of the competition will be condensed, which means it will be a shorter wait for the live shows to begin. "We listened to the viewers and they told us they're fed up with the middle rounds after Hollywood Week and before the live shows, so we've shortened all of that down, condensed the middle round into one week - we're calling it Rush Week," Kinane told the press panel. According to the Hollywood Reporter, after the announcement of the 30 post-Hollywood Week contestants (15 boys and 15 girls), America will vote in a final 10 and each judge will have an additional "wild card" pick. The cut from 30 to 10 will all be contained to one week, and the first live show is scheduled for Feb. 20 instead of the usual early-March start.
The two-night "American Idol" premiere kicks off on Wednesday, January 15 and Thursday, January 16 at 8 p.m. on Fox.
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