'Idol' Judges Taking a Backseat to Contestants in Season 13 (Not a Bad Idea!)

Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr are Fox's "dream team" of judges, but the network insists the focus is on the singers next season

So, American Idol's got its judging panel: Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. Along with house mentor Randy Jackson and indefatigable host Ryan Seacrest, Fox execs are calling this the "American Idol XIII Dream Team." 

Mmm-hmm. That's why your protracted search for panelists went on so long and included so many false starts that Entertainment Weekly eventually asked, "Does anybody WANT to judge this show?" 

But no matter! It's Fox chief Kevin Reilly's job to forecast sunny skies. And the happy message he's telegraphing now is: It's not about the judges. It's about… Well, let's let him say it: 

"American Idol has always been about discovering the next singing superstar, " Reilly said on Tuesday. "And next season our judging panel will deliver a most impressive combination of talent, wisdom and personality to do just that."

Sure, there are those yawning at the decision to hire Urban, Lopez and, eventually, Idol's seventh (eighth? ninth?) choice candidate, Connick Jr. "This panel doesn't even seem that new," writes Digitalspy. "Keith's back for a second year in a row. Jennifer Lopez wasn't on the show last year, but she's judged it twice before. Harry's been buzzing around it for ages (and talking about getting promoted a lot, too). And we're not even saying goodbye to dawg Randy Jackson, who quit as a judge but apparently couldn't stay away -- he'll be back as the in-house mentor and purveyor of 'yos.'"

All true. But back to Reilly's message: The judges are supposed to be unexciting, because the focus is returning to the contestants. Fox also seems to be steering the show back to its more family-friendly roots, before cleavage queens Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey arrived and imposed a snarky, fighting spirit -- which, ultimately, turned fans off.  

Urban, the only Season 12 holdover, was also the most even-keeled judge. During Lopez's two seasons with the show, she was known to show emotion, but also to offer constructive criticism and a seemingly genuine interest in the contestants. As for Connick Jr., he is "actually the most exciting choice Idol could have made, by virtue of its very boringness," writes the Daily Beast. "Lacking the over-the-top silliness that [other] stars mask as genuine personality and certainly lacking their hit radio cachet, Connick appears to be hired solely because he will, as a judge should, be able to offer intelligent advice about singing."

Urban, Lopez, and Connick Jr. are all in their mid-40s, and they're all parents. It's a safe bet that there will be no twerking on the judging table. Connick Jr. recently told a British paper that while he listens to contemporary music, it's "mainly because he has three daughters who subject him to it."  

“Some of the stuff I find pretty disgraceful," he said. "There’s some music out there that has lyrics that are just base and offensive primarily to women. … I mean, I’m all about freedom of speech and being creative, but some of this stuff is really like musical pornography. … My oldest is 17 and I can’t police things. Sometimes she’ll be hanging with her friends and I hear stuff and I think I’m listening to it in a different way than they are. I don’t even know if they’re paying attention, but I’m like, 'Come on, man -- seriously, that’s nasty.”

Can you imagine Minaj making this point? It's more likely that her songs are among the music he's talking about!

Judging by the new panel's uneventful press conference in Boston on Wednesday (read some of their good-natured, well-mannered quotes here), these judges will be the antithesis of the group that held court in Season 12. And while Perez Hilton might try his best to stir up trouble, last year's histrionics aren't likely to pop up again. “The focus is back where it’s supposed to be, on the show, and on the contestants and on people having a good time," Lopez said at the press conference. Way to stay on message, J Lo!

American Idol Season 13 will hit the air in January 2014 on Fox.

Jennifer Graham Kizer is an Atlanta-based writer who covers pop culture and watches too much TV. Luckily, iVillage gives her an excuse to watch even more. Follow her on Google+.

Connect with Us
Follow Our Pins

Yummy recipes, DIY projects, home decor, fashion and more curated by iVillage staffers.

Follow Our Tweets

The very dirty truth about fashion internships... DUN DUN @srslytheshow http://t.co/wfewf

On Instagram

Behind-the-scenes pics from iVillage.

Best of the Web