'Idol': Producer responds to Paula's claims, previews new season

Americanidolnewjudge_l
American Idol
executive producer Ken Warwick tells EW.com he had "no idea whatsoever" that Paula Abdul fan Paula Goodspeed had been a long-time stalker of Abdul’s when she auditioned for the fifth season of the Fox show in 2005. Goodspeed’s body was discovered earlier this year in her car near Abdul’s home, an apparent suicide. Last week, while appearing on on ABC’s The View and Barbara Walters’ Sirius radio show, Abdul accused Idol producers of allowing Goodspeed to audition even after Abdul told them the woman had an unhealthy history with her "I said, ‘This girl is a stalker of mine,’" Abdul told Walters on the radio. "’Please do not let her in.’ Everyone knew. I was shaking."

"The whole event is terrible, obviously," responds Warwick. "[Paula] might have told someone [about Goodspeed]. I don’t know who it was. She certainly
didn’t tell me at the time. I had no idea, and I was in the
room. Normally, she would have told the security there. They’re the people who would handle it." Warwick does acknowledge he knew Goodspeed was "a fan" of Abdul’s. "It was written on the notes." But he hastens to add, "if we think anybody is even on the cusp of being violent in any way, they don’t even get into the room. I would never contaminate the credibility of the show by putting someone dangerous or someone who would hurt themselves in that room. I just wouldn’t do it. It’s not worth it."

This back-and-forth comes as Idol ramps up for its upcoming eighth season (premiering January 13). After the jump, Warwick previews alterations to the semifinal stage of the competition — get ready for the Top 36! — among other significant changes:

addCredit(“Michael Becker/Fox”)

Why a new judge? To make Simon unhappy
Songwriter and record producer Kara DioGuardi will join the show
this season as its first permanent fourth judge. Warwick says that
beyond the need to shake up the Idol format in its eighth
season lest it get staid, he also wanted a fourth judge to keep Simon
from "always getting his own way." In a tie, Simon gets the deciding
vote, but Warwick says the net effect of DioGuardi’s presence on the
panel was more contestants Simon didn’t like going on to Hollywood
week: "Sometimes, a kid who normally would have gone [home] comes to
Hollywood, and they’re fabulous."

Hollywood week will actually be in Hollywood
In seasons past, "Hollywood week" really took place in the southern
California city of Pasadena. This year, says Warwick, the show held the
Hollywood stage of the auditions in Hollywood’s Kodak Theater, home of
the Academy Awards and almost every American Idol finale.
Warwick says the bigger backdrop brought out extra nerves in some of
the auditioners, and extra nerve in others: "If they were good, their
passion to get through was more intense than it had been in previous
years." In fact, Hollywood week was so good this year, it will air over
two weeks.

Auditions: Kentucky good; Puerto Rico, not so much
Warwick reports that the standout cities this year were Phoenix,
Ariz. and Louisville, Ken. — in fact, they shot some of the Louisville
auditions at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. The biggest
disappointment, says Warwick, was probably Puerto Rico. The show went
to the U.S. territory hoping to bring more "Latin flavor" to Idol,
which Warwick admits has often been missing from the show. But, he
says, "We got a couple of good kids, but that was all. It was an awful
long way to go for not a lot of result." And as always, there will be a
sizable helping of trainwreck auditions.

No Top 24 this season. Prepare for the Top 36!
In an effort to, as Warwick says, "shake things up," the
semifinalist stage will expand from 24 to 36 contestants, and each
semifinalist will get just one chance to perform before they either
get axed or voted into the top 12. "I’ve got different groups of
kids every week now," says Warwick. "We are going to let go of more
kids each week." Much like the first two seasons of Idol, there will also be a wildcard stage where the judges select semi-finalists for the top 12. And
you can forget ’80s night; Warwick’s plan is to have the top 36 sing
from a catalog drawn from the top ten songs on the Billboard Hot 100
chart since the chart began in the 1950s all the way to the present.

We may finally see some mentors under 30
Warwick is definitely aware that the mentors from previous years
have been a bit long in the tooth. "It’s [still] a wish list at the
moment," he says, "[but] I’m trying to get [mentors] a little younger.
I only like mentors who’ve had a string of hits, who have been there
for a long time and actually have something of value to pass on. Saying
that, there are some kids — and I call them kids, they’re not kids,
they’re 24, 25 — that I’m going after [to be mentors]."

Motown is never, ever going away
Warwick is mum on upcoming theme nights, except for one: "This is
the 50th anniversary of Motown. Motown was so prevalent for so much of
our [audience] demographic that it would be a crime not to do it.
There’s enough stuff there to keep on going forever."

More American Idol:

American Idol season 8 rumors begin

David Cook Idol flashback at AMAs

Spotlight: David Cook

Q&A with David Cook

Paula Abdul calls out Idol for encouraging stalker

Don’t blame Idol for Goodspeed’s death

EW’s American Idol headquarters

Why a new judge? To make Simon unhappy
Songwriter and record producer Kara DioGuardi will join the showthis season as its first permanent fourth judge. Warwick says thatbeyond the need to shake up the Idol format in its eighthseason lest it get staid, he also wanted a fourth judge to keep Simonfrom "always getting his own way." In a tie, Simon gets the decidingvote, but Warwick says the net effect of DioGuardi’s presence on thepanel was more contestants Simon didn’t like going on to Hollywoodweek: "Sometimes, a kid who normally would have gone [home] comes toHollywood, and they’re fabulous."

Hollywood week will actually be in Hollywood
In seasons past, "Hollywood week" really took place in the southernCalifornia city of Pasadena. This year, says Warwick, the show held theHollywood stage of the auditions in Hollywood’s Kodak Theater, home ofthe Academy Awards and almost every American Idol finale.Warwick says the bigger backdrop brought out extra nerves in some ofthe auditioners, and extra nerve in others: "If they were good, theirpassion to get through was more intense than it had been in previousyears." In fact, Hollywood week was so good this year, it will air overtwo weeks.

Auditions: Kentucky good; Puerto Rico, not so much
Warwick reports that the standout cities this year were Phoenix,Ariz. and Louisville, Ken. — in fact, they shot some of the Louisvilleauditions at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. The biggestdisappointment, says Warwick, was probably Puerto Rico. The show wentto the U.S. territory hoping to bring more "Latin flavor" to Idol,which Warwick admits has often been missing from the show. But, hesays, "We got a couple of good kids, but that was all. It was an awfullong way to go for not a lot of result." And as always, there will be asizable helping of trainwreck auditions.

No Top 24 this season. Prepare for the Top 36!
In an effort to, as Warwick says, "shake things up," thesemifinalist stage will expand from 24 to 36 contestants, and eachsemifinalist will get just one chance to perform before they eitherget axed or voted into the top 12. "I’ve got different groups ofkids every week now," says Warwick. "We are going to let go of morekids each week." Much like the first two seasons of Idol, there will also be a wildcard stage where the judges select semi-finalists for the top 12. Andyou can forget ’80s night; Warwick’s plan is to have the top 36 singfrom a catalog drawn from the top ten songs on the Billboard Hot 100chart since the chart began in the 1950s all the way to the present.

We may finally see some mentors under 30
Warwick is definitely aware that the mentors from previous yearshave been a bit long in the tooth. "It’s [still] a wish list at themoment," he says, "[but] I’m trying to get [mentors] a little younger.I only like mentors who’ve had a string of hits, who have been therefor a long time and actually have something of value to pass on. Sayingthat, there are some kids — and I call them kids, they’re not kids,they’re 24, 25 — that I’m going after [to be mentors]."

Motown is never, ever going away
Warwick is mum on upcoming theme nights, except for one: "This isthe 50th anniversary of Motown. Motown was so prevalent for so much ofour [audience] demographic that it would be a crime not to do it.There’s enough stuff there to keep on going forever."

More American Idol:
American Idol season 8 rumors begin
David Cook Idol flashback at AMAs
Spotlight: David Cook
Q&A with David Cook
Paula Abdul calls out Idol for encouraging stalker
Don’t blame Idol for Goodspeed’s death
EW’s American Idol headquarters

Comments (56 total) Add your comment
Page: 1 2 3 4
  • Jason

    Ok, I remember why in season 4 they did girls and guys separate, because in season three there were all those girls in the top 12.
    I like when it is 6 guys and 6 girls, it creates a good vibe. I feel like if they do not continue that it will lose something.

  • elr

    So, we are still getting weeks worth of auditions and only 2 weeks of Hollywood week. Who cares that it now takes place in Hollywood. Are they going to showcase all of the top 36? More semi-finalists were not needed. The gripe was that not all of the top were shown in any way until they made it into this group. And why a permanent fourth judge. It would have been better to have the fourth seat rotate among a group of judges, much the way So you Think you can Dance rotates. I will try to keep an open mind this up coming season, but if I don’t see enough good stuff come with these changes I won’t be back.

  • BC

    That promotional picture is the first time I’ve seen Kara DioGuardi. Schwing!

  • Ep Sato

    BC LOL man! Per the photo, Seacrest and Randy can’t seem to keep their hands off her. She looks kinda like Da Milfweed mom from Weeds. Very cool indeed.
    New season, new contestants, same old bs? Count me in. Changes or not, this is one of the best guilty pleasures on TV right now (after that Housewives of Atlanta show and Top Chef).

  • Shiny

    …and as usual I won’t be watching. I don’t get how this cheesy mess stays afloat. And I’m sure they know Goodspeed was certifiable when they let her audition, they hoped for fireworks and ended up with a sad death. When did it become okay to torture and humiliate mentally ill people on TV?

  • Sara

    Sounds like all of the changes are ones Idol fans have been begging for for YEARS… more Hollywood week shows, no more cheesy 80s tunes, etc. Although i don’t know how I feel about more judging time–I want to hear them sing longer songs than 110 seconds.

  • Christina

    Not too excited about this news. I thought the semi-final format that they had been using from season 4 through 7 was way better than the original format that they are going back to. The Hollywood round was rushed last season so its good that it’s expanded a couple episodes, but who really cares if it takes place in Hollywood or Pasedena??? I sure don’t. Motown, eh, it was a great era but hey, it just doesn’t work on Idol anymore. And yes they better get some mentors who are actually current artists like a Beyonce, Timberlake, or Alcia Keys. This show needs some desperate life!

  • wakeforce

    Sorry, not buying it. The “changes” were made immediately after the suicide. Somewhere in the middle lies the truth. I watched Goodspeed’s audition and Paula was SMILING when the crazy girl tried out. I always liked when they had a fourth judge, except when they were way too easy on the contestants. The delusional need to be brought down a few pegs and if their families won’t do it, then public humiliation will do the trick.

  • JF

    I think this pretty much casts Paula as a liar. Barbara Walters specifically asked Paula who she told and she said the producers and also said “everyone” knew about it. Well, everyone doesn’t include the two producers she claimed she told. When Paula says everyone, that’s an exaggeration. When Paula said producers, that’s a lie.

  • sniglet

    I don’t know what’s true, but I do know that Paula is a notoriuos liar, Randy is a tool, and the show is beyond fixing. The auditions are th ebest part. That is where you get a clue that the most talented singers don’t always make it. You have to be a pretty plant like Michael Johns, and not a little different like crazy girlsinger last year. I reiterate, Paula is a liar who has no business judging singers (and definitely did Corey Clark).

  • sniglet

    Paula is a liar. Randy’s mams are larger than the new judge’s. Paula definitely was doing Corey Clark. Randy is a power tool. I feel sorry for Paula. All the drugging has left her severely brain damaged.

  • Delon

    I don’t like 6girls-6guys format. I only wanna see talent. Put people in Top12 according to their talents not their gender.

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