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'American Idol' judges Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. talk audition rounds -- VIDEO

American Idol‘s new season is in full swing on Fox and though the season kicked off with a ratings low note for the series, if you ask EW recapper Annie Barrett, the new judges panel was a rousing success, praising Harry Connick Jr. for his honest judging approach.

When EW caught up with him and fellow judge Keith Urban during the Television Critics Association press tour this week, he opened up about his approach to critiques, citing his willingness to be blunt as a necessary skill. “Sometimes it’s best to cut to the chase and say, ‘I didn’t like that. Here’s why,'” he said. “…I think honesty has to be the source of every single comment.”

Watch more from our chat with the duo below. READ FULL STORY

'American Idol' returns to worst premiere ratings yet despite Harry Connick Jr.


Unlucky 13?

American Idol returned Wednesday night to once again post its lowest premiere rating ever. The 13th season of Fox’s veteran reality series delivered 15 million viewers and a 4.6 adults 18-49 rating, down 23 percent from last year — even though new judge Harry Connick Jr. is getting glowing reviews from critics and fans.

The performance continues an overall downward trend for the series since 2006, and the show’s premiere ratings have dropped consistently since 2010. It’s a testament to how massive the show’s ratings were in its early years that Idol has managed to fall in the Nielsen numbers for eight years straight and still deliver strong ratings. But there was some mild hope this year might avoid yet another dip given how strong the drops have been — surely it was time for a least a little uptick, right? By comparison, The Voice debuted to 14.9 million viewers and a 5.1 adult demo rating in the fall, marking the first time Idol has premiered to a lower demo rating than its NBC rival. At least Idol can claim it won the night — the show hugely dominated Wednesday’s ratings.

As a counterpoint, Fox noted that this is the network’s biggest night of entertainment programming so far this season and the first time in three years that Idol has returned higher than its previous year’s finale.

Idol‘s tone during last night’s Austin audition kick-off was notably friendlier among the judges, a departure from last season’s tense drama-filled panel that featured Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey (both of whom are no longer on the show). Some critics have suspected that Idol is taking a cue from the success of The Voice, which has a panel that’s often praised for its feel-good camaraderie. Connick Jr. shared the table with returning judges Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez (the latter returning to the show after a one-year absence). Fox also made changes behind the scenes this year, shedding longtime producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick and bringing aboard Per Blankens, Jesse Ignjatovic and Evan Prager.

One question hanging over these numbers: Will A&E’s Duck Dynasty, which also returned last night, deliver a bigger rating? It’s not likely, but it is possible. EW’s Idol recap here, Duck Dynasty recap here. Update: Duck Dynasty ratings are in.

Here’s Idol‘s full-season averages over the years (remember, the first season aired during the summer): READ FULL STORY

'American Idol': Watch a live Q&A with the judges!

Following tonight’s screening of the two-part American Idol premiere in select cities, people in ANY city can watch a live, interactive Q&A about season 13 with judges Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr., and host Ryan Seacrest (who hopefully won’t be superimposed into the picture, as above) right here. The chat session begins at 8:30 p.m ET/5:30 p.m. PT.

Watch it below!

On the scene: A preview glimpse of 'American Idol' at Hollywood Week

The world will have to wait until American Idol premieres on Jan. 15 to know who got the golden tickets, but for the contestants on Idol‘s upcoming 13th season, this week was Hollywood Week and the competition is just starting to get intense. EW was on the scene for the first day of the second stage of FOX’s singing competition.

Contestants had to perform in front of the judges for the first time since their original auditions in their home towns to get to the next round in Hollywood Week: Groups. With new judge Harry Connick Jr. joining Keith Urban and returning judge Jennifer Lopez on the panel, this season already has a warmer different vibe than the last one — better known as Mariah vs. Nicki. Gone are the dueling divas and the new threesome seem to be getting along very well, joking and laughing together throughout the day.

As for the competition itself, each contestant had to sing a song of their choice a cappella on stage at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, home of the Academy Awards, in front of the judges, their fellow competitors, and family and friends. Each contestant is allowed to bring two people to cheer them on sitting up in the front mezzanine. When it was the contestant’s turn to sing, their family moved to the edge of the balcony so they could see them. The family and friends are also there to console and take eliminated contestants home right away. And I mean right away — their luggage is waiting (organized alphabetically) in the lobby of the theater.

Before singing, each contestant introduced him or herself by sharing their name, age, and why they believe they are the next American Idol. Some favorite introductions we overheard:

'American Idol' season 13 promo: Time to 'search for a superstar' -- VIDEO

After all of the drama surrounding who would make up American Idol‘s judging panel, the show is ready to get back to business: Finding music’s next superstar.

We’ve got a first look at the new promo for season 13, which takes us all around the nation, showing a variety of contestants and teasing “Who will it be?” Watch the promo below:

Watch new 'American Idol' audition footage -- VIDEO

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 1.03.53 PM

American Idol season 13 doesn’t premiere ’til January, but you can catch a whiff of Keith Urban, former judge J. Lo, and new judge Harry Connick Jr.’s combined pheromones already. Check out a sneak preview of a few promising auditions (plus a twerking “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and a slurring man Harry thinks is “cool”) below. READ FULL STORY

'Luther' finale: Creator Neil Cross on that final moment

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched the Luther season (series?) finale, stop reading now. READ FULL STORY

'American Idol' rumor roundup: Randy Jackson as a mentor, Kanye West as a judge?

When we’re not busy trying to figure out what is going to happen on Breaking Bad, we’re consumed with constant stories about what is going to happen on none other than American Idol. Honestly, if you thought The Real Housewives had drama, you’ve been missing out.

The latest rumor surrounding the evolving cast of the reality singing competition stars a familiar face: Mr. Randy Jackson, who served as a judge on the show for the first 12 seasons before leaving last May.

According to Deadline, music producer Jimmy Iovine is leaving his post as an in-house mentor, a position he’s held for three seasons, and will “likely be replaced” by Jackson. Deadline claims Fox chairman Kevin Reilly had previously mentioned that Jackson “will be back in some capacity.” So maybe Idol hasn’t lost its top dawg after all.

But Jackson isn’t the only name being thrown around the Idol rumor mill: READ FULL STORY

Source: Jennifer Lopez deal with 'American Idol' imminent

A person familiar with negotiations to bring Jennifer Lopez back as an American Idol judge says her return will be announced this week.

The person said Monday that a deal is close to being signed with Lopez, who was an Idol judge for the 2011 and 2012 seasons. The person wasn’t authorized to comment publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. READ FULL STORY

'American Idol': Jennifer Lopez nearing deal to return as judge

American Idol‘s season 13 judging panel is inching toward completion: Last week came the official news that Keith Urban would be returning, and now sources tell EW that former Idol judge Jennifer Lopez — who has been in the mix of potential judges — is very close to signing a deal to return to the reality singing competition.

At this point, Lopez’s deal is not signed — but it could be ready in as little as a few days. Lopez was an Idol judge during the 2011 and 2012 seasons of American Idol and was reportedly courted during the 2013 season as a possible replacement for judge Mariah Carey.

The third seat at the judging table remains much more up in the air: Sources say that Black Eyed Peas singer is still in talks with Idol producers, but it’s unclear if he’s actively in negotiating a deal yet. Harry Connick, Jr., was in the running but is likely no longer being considered, while Idol alum and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson was also a possibility but no longer seems to be a contender.

Sources tells EW that the Idol panel — much like when it originally launched with Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell, and Paula Abdul in 2002 — will include just three judges in the upcoming season, as opposed to four in recent seasons.

Fox had no comment on the negotiations. (Additional reporting by James Hibberd)

Read more:
That’s one: Keith Urban confirmed for ‘American Idol’ return

That's one: Keith Urban confirmed for 'American Idol' return


Keith Urban survived the cut.

Fox entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly confirmed that the country artist will return to American Idol next year.

That fills one slot on the long-running reality series, which fell to series-low ratings last season. Former judges Mariah Carey, Randy Jackson and Nicki Minaj are not returning. At least two other judges will be added to the panel in the coming weeks, possibly and/or Jennifer Lopez (again). Jennifer Hudson has also been widely rumored, but isn’t considered a very likely addition.

Reilly said he’s seeking “comfortable judges that make it comfortable to view” the show. He also said, in what seems to be an annual statement about Idol, that next season will focus more on the contestants and less on the judges.

The executive made the statement at the Television Critics Association’s semi-annual press tour in Beverly Hills on Thursday.

Reilly was also asked about X Factor, which is radically rebooting its pane for the third year in a row. This year, Paulina Rubio and Kelly Rowland join Simon Cowell and Demi Lovato. “I don’t know that [the panel has] been a problem per se,” he said. “You’re trying to find four judges trying to find the right chemistry, I think the panel for the most part last year worked… Simon is a perfectionist. Demi was a great piece of the puzzle … this year we’ve really got right.”

Ten ex-'Idol' contestants file multi-million dollar lawsuit, claiming racial discrimination

Former American Idol contestant Corey Clark is suing Fox again… and this time, he’s not alone.

EW has confirmed that 10 onetime Idol hopefuls — including Clark (season 2), Jaered Andrews (season 2), Jacob John Smalley (season 2), Donnie Williams (season 3), Terrell Brittenum (season 5), Derrell Brittenum (season 5), Thomas Daniels (season 6), Akron Watson (season 6), Ju’Not Joyner (season 8), and Chris Golightly (season 9) — have banded together to file a suit against the singing series.

The plaintiffs claim that they were treated unfairly — and kicked off the show unjustly — because they all happen to be black.  READ FULL STORY

Adam Lambert joining 'Glee'

Glee’s fifth season just got a dose of glam(bert).

Creator Ryan Murphy announced via Twitter Wednesday that American Idol alum Adam Lambert is poised to join the show next season in an as-yet unannounced role. (EW has reached out to Fox for  details.)

News of Lambert’s addition comes almost two weeks after a significant cast shakeup that saw the departure of series regulars Heather Morris (Brittany), Mark Salling (Puck), Harry Shum, Jr. (Mike), Dianna Agron (Quinn) and Amber Riley (Mercedes), who are all said to possibly return in a guest star capacity. Shortly after news of the exits, Fox also announced the promotion of Melissa Benoist, Blake Jenner, Alex Newell, Jacob Artist, and Becca Tobin to series regulars.


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