American Idol will replace the on-stage band with audience members

American Idol has hired Ray Chew as its new band director, but is planning to hide him and the musicians, replacing them on the stage with audience members, because as we all know, American Idol‘s biggest problem was that it had too few coached audience members getting screen time.

The Hollywood Reporter first reported that Ray Chew would join the show; he’s previously produced and conducted live music for live TV shows such as the Grammys, the 2008 Democractic National Convention, and The Singing Bee. (Watch his reel to see what’s he’s done.)

Executive producer Ken Warwick told Entertainment Weekly that the band is being moved: “At the moment, the [upper] tier that was where the band was is now going to be audience. The plan is that the band will come out when required. There’s going to be a whole new kind of arena feel to the whole proceeding.”

MJ reminds us that the show didn’t always have live music: season four was the first season with Rickey Minor and a live band; she also speculates that the show’s new mentor could create backing tracks that the band would add to.

Meanwhile, reports continue to come in about format changes; most recently, Joe’s Place reported that “The top 40 will be brought back to Hollywood for a round called ‘Sing For Your Life’.”

The Sing-Off loses its star

Ben Folds

NBC's super-fun December a capella singing competition The Sing-Off is returning, but without its star judge, Ben Folds, and only as a two-hour special. Those are really depressing changes for a series that proved itself to be a super-fun show when it returned last December.


A film director talks about becoming a reality TV character

Anna Martemucci

What is it like to have your life turned into reality TV? Director Anna Martemucci, one of the two directors featured on Starz' exceptional reality series, talks about that, the competition, and her collaboration with her husband and brother-in-law.

Plus: How the show's producers tried to keep the $250,000 competition fair.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.