ABC and 19 Entertainment’s revival of American Idol has found its final two judges just days before judge auditions are scheduled to begin: country singer Luke Bryan and Oscar- and Grammy-winner Lionel Richie. Bryan’s deal was signed Sunday, and Richie was the last to come aboard.
They join Katy Perry, and all three will appear together Wednesday on Good Morning America, which has become QVC for ABC’s prime-time reality TV.
FremantleMedia’s Trish Kinane justified the last-minute casting by saying in an ABC press release, “We have taken our time to get the right mix of amazing talent for the new Idol judging panel. Our viewers expect musical credibility, passion and a true concern for the contestants; and with Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie joining the brilliant Katy Perry, we have two more world-class musical powerhouses eager to get to work and identify the next generation of superstars.”
They are big musical names, but are they a panel that has any chemistry? That’s the question that matters. Names are close to irrelevant, as reality TV has consistently proven that celebrity alone doesn’t draw viewers.
Katy Perry’s hosting of the VMAs was lifeless and dreadful, and while she isn’t hosting Idol, of course, it did not give me any confidence for her ability to be a natural, live television presence.
American Idol had a reported $50 million budget for all its talent, and Katy Perry’s $25 million took half of that and Ryan Seacrest took another $15 million. That meant $10 million for two judges, and as Variety reported on Wednesday, before Richie signed, that “Bryan and another prospect, Lionel Richie, are said to have balked initially at what they saw as lowball offers.”
Variety also noted that neither “ABC [nor] FremantleMedia North America offered a glimpse of how the show will be freshened, coming just two years after its final bow on Fox.”
Right now, all available evidence suggests that, at best, American Idol on ABC is going to be about as fresh as it was in 2016.