Magazine article Variety

Lots of Room for 'Idol' Speculation

Magazine article Variety

Lots of Room for 'Idol' Speculation

Article excerpt

IT HAS BEEN 10 MONTHS since ABC,just days before its upfront presentation in New York, closed a deal to bring "American Idol" back to television. The network won a bidding war with Fox to land the notso-long-dormant franchise's revival, then shelled out heavily to secure judge Katy Perry ($25 million per season) and host Ryan Seacrest ($12 million). Reviving "Idol" became the most intrigue-generating gambit of the 2017-18 broadcast season. How it pays out is about to be seen. The new "American Idol" premieres March 11.

"We are so excited to finally introduce America to the new 'American Idol' on ABC," said Rob Mills, the network's head of alternative programming. "Our top priority in bringing the series back to the airwaves has been to maintain and showcase the heart and soul that has captured audiences since the franchise's inception, while sprinkling in some Disney magic like no other company can along the way."

Where "Idol" will air and who will star have long been settled issues. But several questions still surround the return of a show that ruled for a decade as TV's most watched.

Is Seacrest a $12 million liability?

ABC landed Perry quickly, then took two months to lock down Seacrest. At the time, his participation seemed essential. But sexual-harassment allegations against him by his former stylist revealed Feb. 26 by Variety have cast a shadow over the host's endeavors. Appearing on the Oscars red carpet for E! March 4, Seacrest was passed over by A-listers and Time's Up activists, left to interview personal friends, older actors and fellow Disney-ABC employees.

Twelve of this season's 19 "Idol" episodes have been taped, eliminating the near-term potential for Seacrest's off-screen troubles to intrude on-screen. Live episodes begin the week of April 22. But the singing competition's premiere so soon after the Oscars threatens to reignite controversy around the host, whose presence on the red carpet was criticized by #MeToo founder Tarana Burke and argued over vociferously on Twitter.

How big a bite will the competition take?

For eight consecutive seasons, beginning in 2003-4, "Idol" was television's highest-rated show in the 18-49 demographic. The new iteration will have a high ratings bar to clear to live up to that legacy. …

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