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A battle-scarred ‘American Idol’ tries for second act

Mar 12,2018
From left, Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, Ryan Seacrest and Luke Bryan in New York. Richie, Perry and Bryan are judges on ABC’s reboot of “American Idol.” [AP/YONHAP]
LOS ANGELES - In its heyday, “American Idol” dominated television and online chatter, even inspiring a New Yorker cartoonist. Now, two years after the singing contest ended its run on Fox amid dwindling ratings and steep production costs, it’s getting the chance to prove itself again on ABC.

In early episodes, the show is marginally revised and instantly familiar. It retains the original host, Ryan Seacrest, along with the same logo and production companies. Also intact is the goal of finding a music star - one such as Carrie Underwood, who built a blockbuster career after winning “Idol” in 2005 and whose voice-over opens the ABC show.

The reboot’s early episodes include pre-taped auditions held in cities including New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Savannah, Georgia. We see, as before, crowds of would-be contestants eager to prove they have what it takes for a “golden ticket to Hollywood” and next-round tryouts.

“There’s been a lot of talk about, ‘how is this show different,”’ Seacrest said at a news conference with next-generation judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie. “You’ve got three different faces. You have different contestants. But to change the show drastically in terms of format, I think, would be a mistake.”

For the judges, the new “American Idol” represents a chance to put their stamp on a job held by a succession of celebrity panelists.

“I think we can inspire people and show people how it’s done too, in our own way,” Bryan told the Associated Press.

Richie said the goal is to find more than a singer: “We are looking for an artist, and that’s going to require our expertise.”

The judges also may help the contestants set new goals, Perry said.

“Some people, they don’t know that there are other lanes in the freeway so it’s not just pop stardom,” she said. “Maybe you’re a Broadway star, maybe you’re in voice-over, maybe you’re gonna do jingles. Maybe you’re a songwriter…There’s so many different ways to go at it.”

What ABC wants is more predictable: Ratings proof that it made the right decision reviving “American Idol,” which debuted in 2002 with judges Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson. It reigned as TV’s No. 1 series for nine years, peaking with 30 million viewers an episode in 2006.

By its last season, the average audience had dipped to 11 million and skewed older, and NBC’s “The Voice” surpassed it in popularity.