"American Idol" changes its tune a little

Sun Dec 14, 2008 6:44pm EST
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By James Hibberd

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Fox is readying to announce some "American Idol" format changes.

The tweaks have been rumored online thanks to a memo leaked to a fan site. With the show's premiere set for January 13, the network is set to reveal the plans at a news conference on Monday. The changes include:

-- Fewer audition episodes and more Hollywood-round episodes. The shift increases the show's emphasis on talented performers and shies further away from the crash-and-burn spectacle of less-talented attention-seekers.

-- To further emphasize the focus on the most talented singers, the semifinalist rounds will feature the top 36 contestants instead of 24.

-- Adding some unpredictability, the "wild card" round will return, which gives eliminated contestants a chance to come back into the competition for one of the top finalist spots.

-- The network will not air an "Idol Gives Back" charity telecast next year, but does plan to hold the event in the show's ninth season. Moving forward, "Gives Back" will become an every-other-year event.

Earlier this year, Fox announced the addition of a fourth judge (songwriter Kara DioGuardi) and the departure of executive producer Nigel Lythgoe. The network doesn't expect the changes to result in a ratings reversal for the six-year-old show -- which has withstood broadcast's overall ratings erosion better than most -- but hopes the shake-up helps stem whatever audience drain might otherwise occur.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

<p>Simon Cowell (L) and Randy Jackson, two of the judges on the American Idol television show, arrive for the show's season finale in Los Angeles, California May 21, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>