Are "American Idol" producers looking to construct a judges panel that looks more like the "X Factor" line-up or the set of stars that mentor on "The Voice?"
There have been rumors that the current shake-up in the "American Idol" judges line-up due to the departure of Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez might not lead to only having to replace the two charismatic figures but that the panel could go back to having a fourth member. Since nobody at Fox Television is talking about anything related to the judge situation, rumors they will stay until further notice. Which leaves fans and followers wondering how it will all play out? With shows like NBC's "The Voice" and Fox's own "X Factor" eating into the singing competition ratings pie, will Season 12 of "American Idol" return with a three-person judges panel, or will it go to four? And if four, will it go the route of singing stars as mentors and judges -- like "The Voice" -- or will it move toward singing stars and producers -- like "X Factor?"
We've already heard, via the various rumors either spilling out of Hollywood or confirmed by stories of those saying they've been contacted by "Idol" for the judges' jobs, indications that the panel could go either way. However, it could also go back to its usual format of three judges, especially if Randy Jackson rejoins the set. But the word is that Randy might return but in a Jimmy Iovine-type capacity as mentor to the finalists. (And it should be remembered that "Idol" flirted with the four-person panel before, bringing in songwriter/producer Kara DioGuardi for two seasons, not to mention comedian Ellen Degeneres for one season after Paula Abdul was discharged from the show.)
But how serious is the idea of returning to the four-person panel? Who knows? One thing is certain, "American Idol," although it ruled the ratings for nearly a decade, is still the No. 1 non-sports-related show on television (and second only to NBC's Sunday Night Football). But they have seen a constant drain on that television barometric demographic of young adults -- and it could be something they will play to in the search for a new judge.
Enter Nick Jonas. His brother, Joe, is already mentoring on The CW's singing competition show, "The Next." He confirmed in a Twitter posting that "Idol" and his camp were in negotiations for a judgeship. And if you're thinking that it looks as if "American Idol" is constructing a panel that looks a lot like that of the "X Factor," you would be correct. Considering that another rumor via the New York Daily News blog "Gatecrasher" is true, that producer Pharrell Williams is either negotiating or has already sealed the judging position, you would have your three judges for Season 12 -- an established singing star in Mariah Carey, a young singing star in Nick Jonas, and a hit-making producer in Pharrell Williams. If judge Randy, a producer in his own right, returns, it would be a four-person panel akin to that on the "X Factor," which currently counts on its panel: Britney Spears (established singing star), Demi Lovato (young singing star), L. A. Reid (hit-making producer), and Simon Cowell (another producer of note). Add in the Disney/younger generation connection for both shows with Jonas and Lovato (who both turn 20 this year within a month of each other), and you're looking at two shows with judging panels that would be nearly interchangeable.
Of course, "American Idol" could go in the direction of a four-person panel like that of NBC's hit, "The Voice." That show's group of judges/mentors are all established hitmaking singers, songwriters, showmen, and -- on varying levels -- producers. The positions are filled with a pop star (Chistina Aguilera), a pop/rocker (Adam Levine of Maroon 5), an R&B/soul/rap artist (Cee Lo Green), and country singer (Blake Shelton). Rumors recently have put "Idol" officials in touch with various country music performers like Brad Paisley and Toby Keith. So if they end up landing a country singer and perhaps Pharrell Williams (also a rap star in his own right) to go along with pop star Mariah Carey (who has already signed on for Season 12), they would nearly mirror the line-up on "The Voice." Of course, if they go to quartet status, Nick Jonas would fill the pop/rocker slot nicely.
With Fox Television and "American Idol" producers remaining silent (except for the as yet also-unsigned Nigel Lythgoe, who has jokingly suggested to TMZ that judgeships be extended to Charlie Sheen and Jerry Lewis), and the rumor mill running at full throttle, it is difficult to say what the final make-up of the judges panel will be.
But one thing is certain: Whether or not "American Idol" mirrors the "X Factor" or "The Voice" or finds some alternate ground, it has managed to stay the top-rated regular television show for almost a decade. The powers that be at 19 Entertainment, Freemantle North America, and Fox Television (all responsible for the production, marketing, and distribution of the show) will do whatever they possibly can to ensure that they seat a popular judges panel. Because admit it: You watch shows like "American Idol" and "X Factor" because of the judges (think: Simon Cowell's brutal honesty, Steven Tyler craziness, Black Shelton's down-home wit) as much or more as for the singing competition.
(photo credit: David Shankbone, Creative Commons)
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