‘American Idol’: ‘This is the show that produces stars’

From left: Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, Randy Jackson and Ryan Seacrest return for the 11th season of “American Idol,” premiering Jan. 18 at 8 p.m. on Fox.

“American Idol” was first on the reality singing competition scene, and its judges and producers don’t want you to forget it.

“‘Idol’ is still the best TV show of its kind anywhere,” judge Randy Jackson said while promoting Season 11 at the Television Critics Association press tour on Sunday. “We kind of invented this whole game that everybody is now copying.”

Jackson was referring in large part to “The X Factor,” the vocal competition former “Idol” judge Simon Cowell brought to Fox. Before its premiere, Cowell boasted that “The X Factor” would topple “Idol” from its perch as the most-watched series in America. In reality, it drew about half the audience of “Idol.”

Why the lopsided success? “This is the show that produces the stars,” says “Idol” executive producer Ken Warwick. “There’s no other series … that has produced anything like the number of stars we have.”

Jackson saved even harsher words for the contestants of “The Voice,” which proved to be a hit for NBC, by calling them “second-chance people” since the 2011 winner, Javier Colon, had a failed contract with Capitol Records before appearing on the contest.

But not everyone associated with “Idol” views the crowded field of singing competitions as a bad thing. “It’s a more competitive marketplace, but in the end competition is good,” said “Idol” executive producer Cecile Frot Coutaz. In that spirit, “Idol” will change the format, featuring performance challenges that include a song from the late 1950s and a round stripping songs down to one voice, one instrument.

That still might not be enough for the show to sustain its track record. “I expect ‘Idol’ will be down [in ratings] this season,” Fox President of Entertainment Kevin Reilly said, “but mostly due to the fact it’s going to be an 11-year-old show.”

Seacrest out?

Rumors have been circulating that Ryan Seacrest, in the last year of his “American Idol” contract, may ditch the hosting gig to move over to the “Today” show on NBC (he already has a deal with NBC Universal). But Seacrest said he “can’t imagine life without the show.” “At this point, honestly, I only see myself as hosting ‘American Idol,’” he said. “I’m focused on that for this season.”

For more TCA updates follow Amber Ray on Twitter @amberatmetro


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