The producers at Fox are tapping into the long history of American Idol for the the judge's panel next season, but not in the way you might think. Despite rumors of a panel made up from the show's old contestants, a pair of old judges are returning and bringing along Will.i.am.
Deadline's Nellie Andreeva reports Jennifer Lopez will return as a judge after a year away from the show. She'll sit alongside Keith Urban, whose return was announced this week, and potentially the former Black Eyed Pea. Andreeva says Will.i.am is close to signing a deal, too. The news is a little shocking considering Lopez wasn't really on the radar as a potential judge, but The New York Times' Brian Stelter points out Fox entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly said producers were throwing her name around during a press conference last week.
There were plans for an all old contestants panel that didn't pan out. Jennifer Hudson, Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood were reportedly going to reverse rolls this year and help out fledging new singers. That idea was scrapped after Hudson was close to signing a deal but Clarkson and Underwood couldn't make the commitment.
Lopez left the show in 2012 and Fox brought in Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey to judge with the only remaining original, Randy Jackson. They were hoping the drama created by the two divas would see an uptick in the already flagging ratings. But the Minaj-Carey experiment didn't work out as planned. Ratings nosedived, Minaj and Carey both left and calls for the show to maybe consider packing it up after 11 long, glorious years as the dominate musical audition show on television grew louder and louder. American Idol is at a vulnerable point in its history and needs a shot in the arm. Some fresh with interesting perspectives could rally the show and help it challenge NBC's The Voice, Idol's biggest competitor. Lopez is not that. She was popular enough as a judge, but no one was watching the show only to see her. She was balanced and fair with her criticism and, if we're being honest, that's not what makes people tune in.