"American Idol" changing its tune
By Ann Donahue
LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Fox has outlined the schedule for the eighth season of "American Idol," which reworks the elimination process to extend the Hollywood round and gives judges the opportunity to send some of their overlooked favorite contestants to the final.
"American Idol" will start airing January 13 with three weeks of audition episodes from East Rutherford, N.J.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Kansas City, Mo.; Louisville, Ky.; Phoenix; Salt Lake City; San Francisco; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The extended Hollywood rounds will last for two weeks, starting February 3. On February 11, the final 36 will be revealed, with audience voting beginning February 17.
The judges -- with songwriter Kara DioGuardi joining Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell -- will then get a "wild card" round on March 5, after which the top 12 finalists will be set.
"Wherever we can, we want to change things up a bit," executive producer Ken Warwick said. "(Previously) by the final 8, we'd be living with these kids for weeks already. If any of them don't have fantastic characters, it got a bit boring."
Warwick says that of the contestants this season, "there are maybe a couple less bad ones," although he noted that the auditions in San Juan did not go well. "I have to give a cross-section of that people that show up," he said. "If I set up this system where all the bad ones never got seen, I'd have a pretty boring show on my hands."
And while ratings dipped over the course of the show last year, only to rebound for the final, Warwick says it's all part and parcel of a long-running series.
"When you get to the eighth (season) of any series, you've got to expect it, logically, for the ratings to diminish slightly in parts," he said. "The whole of the television audience last year went down -- I believe the average was 12% -- and I believe we were 7% down. So really, overall, we didn't do that badly." Continued...