American Idol judges, producers terrified by The Voice, X Factor, judging by their defensive response

The judges and producers of American Idol are terrified by the increasing competition they face from The Voice and even X Factor, judging by their surprisingly aggressive and defensive response to those shows during a session at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour.

At first, it wasn’t clear what they’d talk about besides Steven Tyler’s boobs and Ryan Seacrest’s contract negotiations. But in part because of the questions that were asked, repeatedly defended their show against other competition singing shows by attacking those series (and their stars) and defending American Idol. Here’s a summary of the things they said, with emphasis added:

  • Judge Randy Jackson: “Idol is still the best TV show of its kind anywhere. We are the original. We kind of invented this whole game that everybody is now copying. And I say that they are copying it, right? So, I mean, listen. I mean, I think, you know, Simon has done well with his show, probably not the expectations that he wanted, but, you know, we wish him well, and we’ve gone on with this and done well.
  • Randy: “This is the most authentic talent show. The judges should always call it as they see it, not as people want them to call it, as they see it. … And part of what we do is and the way that we do it is to try to help and mentor and nurture the talent. When we tell people to come back next year, we actually mean that.”
  • Fox reality executive Mike Darnell, asked about supervising two competing shows: “X Factor by its nature is sort over the top, more variety. It can’t go louder. This is a more intimate television show, but the biggest difference is this show is a phenomenon. American Idol is the gold standard of this stuff whether you are talking about any of the other shows. And to be honest, this is just a what we are experiencing right now is kind of a wave. We’ve had several waves of competitors over the last 10 years, and this show has stood up extraordinarily tall. Let’s not forget that, last year, we all sat here, and a lot of this group and a lot of the world was suspicious that we couldn’t come back with this television show, and it came roaring back. So I think the biggest difference is this is the show the audience loves, and this is the show the audience wants to come back to.
  • Executive producer Ken Warwick: “This is also the show that produces the stars. There’s no other series any of these series over the years has produced anything like the number of stars that we have. I think to be honest, I think Leona Lewis was kind of a one and a half hit star for 10 minutes, but there’s no Kelly Clarksons, Carrie Underwoods, Jennifer Hudsons. Coming steaming up now on CBS [NBC] is Katharine McPhee. They are real stars. They really are. And none of these shows are producing the stars that we are.
  • Rand Jackson: “Yo. And the winner of The Voice the winner of The Voice, as I will remind you, was an artist that had a deal at Capitol Records for many years, a failed contract over there. So it’s almost like that show, it was almost like second chance people. It wasn’t like some new artist. Do you know what I mean? You know. So, I mean, it’s a different thing out there to me.”
  • Randy Jackson, on the recent idols the show has failed to produce: “Scotty McCreery is now a platinum artist, which today is like selling 10 million records. I think probably the only three artists that are bigger are probably Adele, Rihanna, and Gaga, if my memory serves me correct, and Adele bigger than all of them in the world singles wise. So I think I mean, this year that didn’t happen. I think it depends on the artist. And I say this every year. You have to make an amazing, competitive record. … It’s all about the songs. After we do our thing and the public votes, it’s all about that great record.
  • Executive producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz, who is delighftully bitter with critics, acting as if she’s talking to children: “The show is a platform, and it gives these contestants a platform from which to launch their career. The show isn’t the end of their career. It’s the beginning of their careers. And then it depends who they are and what they do with it. And the truth is over the last sort of 11 years or 10 years, some people have done more with it than others. And I think it’s highlighted by the fact that some of the winners have had huge careers. Some haven’t. And some of the runner-ups have. Look at Jennifer Hudson. She’s had an amazing career. … And Chris Daughtry. And he didn’t even make it to the finals. So I think it’s like in life, right? You hand people the same deck of cards, and some will do better than others.”
  • Asked about Kelly Clarkson mentoring on The Voice, Fox reality executive Mike Darnell said, “It’s a compliment to Idol that we’re creating this show has created superstars, what we talked about before, and that other shows want to use those superstars in their shows. We’re not hiring a lot of people from The Voice to be on our show.
  • Randy Jackson added: “It’s great that we can invent some talent for The Voice.”
  • Cecile Frot-Coutaz, asked about the increasing number of similar shows, said, “It’s obviously a lot more competitive. When Idol started, there was only one of its kind, and the truth is now there’s a lot of these shows. It’s therefore a more competitive marketplace, but in the end competition is good. It’s good for everybody. It means you have to raise your game. You have to be better. And that’s what we try and do. Every season we come back and we try to be better than the season before. That’s the only thing we can do. Then what the viewers choose to do is not in our control. What’s in our control is our television show. And we work really hard every year to bring something fresh, something that’s relevant, that’s exciting and entertaining and hopefully delivers a star at the end. I think last year we did a pretty good job of it, and this year it’s our intention to do the same.”
  • Ken Warwick: “You can never get too tied up with what everybody else is doing. This is an express train. Once you get on this, it’s two shows a week, sometimes three, for three and a half, four months. If you have got time to sit down and say, ‘Hmm, I wonder what they’re doing on the other side, let’s have a look,’ you’re lost.

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.