Photo Credit: Courtesy of Fox
With TV talent competitions springing up like weeds, you've got to wonder if American Idol (its 11th season is premiering Wednesday, Jan. 18, at 8 p.m. ET on FOX) is starting to watch its back. Do Ryan Seacrest, Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler worry about shows like The X Factor and The Voice? Does the show's executive producer, Ken Warwick, ever worry that the show will lose its status as the highest rated on TV? (Dancing with the Stars and NCIS have come the closest to toppling Idol from this best-rated perch.)
Not so much, actually. At least not according to their tough talk during the recent Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Calif., (where the networks previewed their winter TV lineups). At Idol's TCA panel, when critics wondered whether they felt some heat at their backs, Jackson didn't mince words.
"Idol is still the best TV show that's come on anywhere," he groused. "We're the original. We kind of invented this whole game that everybody's now copying -- and I say that they're copying it, right?"
He stopped short of slinging outright insults at his friend and former Idol judge, Simon Cowell. "I mean, Simon's done well with his show [The X Factor], probably not the expectations that he wanted," Jackson said. "But, you know, we wish him well." This was a zinger, sure. But just a little one.
He was less kind to The Voice, whose premiere (following the Super Bowl on Feb. 5) is just 18 days after Idol begins. Going forward, The Voice will air on Monday nights, while Idol will air on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
"The winner of The Voice [Javier Colon], I will remind you, was an artist who had a deal at Capitol Records for several years, a failed contract," he said. "That show was almost 'second chance people.'" Then he assured critics that "we will definitely never ever rip off Star Trek like The Voice did with spinning chairs." Ouch.
While Lopez and Tyler stayed out of the mud, Mike Darnell, FOX's head of reality, slung a little of his own, especially when asked about his reaction to Idol winner Kelly Clarkson's decision to serve as a guest mentor on The Voice.
"I think it's a compliment to Idol that this show is creating superstars," he said. "We're not hiring a lot of people from The Voice to be on our show," he said.
Hmm. You've got to wonder: If they're truly not feeling threatened, why not just wish the other shows well and move on? The fact is, while The X Factor and The Voice have both succeeded in attracting large numbers of viewers, neither has approached Idol's huge ratings.
Maybe that's why Idol isn't going to do much tinkering with its formula this year. There will be just a few tweaks, like switching The Beatles night to a night of 50's era songs. In another episode, contestants will perform a song with just one instrument accompanying them.
Lopez pointed out that she and the other judges were "a little more comfortable" this time around, and Jackson added that they dispensed more "no's." Judging by how overly nice Lopez and Tyler were in the first few weeks of last year, that's good news!