Hey, have you heard? American Idol has been overhauled, and the people responsible for the changes were all present and accounted for at Fox's TCA press tour today—you know, Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler, Ryan Seacrest, Randy Jackson and the powers that be.
We got the goods on the new season, plus a preview of the live dynamic between Ryan and the new judges. We just want to warn you...
...they will be putting Steven Tyler on a five-second tape delay. Or at least Ryan hopes they'll have to. In fact, the Aerosmith star was kind enough to sum up the judging dynamic in one sentence: "I get red in the face, she bails me out, and Randy says, ‘yo!'" That's the type of serious and professional critique we can expect this year from the juggernaut that is Idol.
OK, it's more than that. Here's the breakdown on the type of roles Ryan, Jennifer Lopez, Steven, and Randy Jackson will play from their perches behind the table:
J.Lo: Half girl from the Bronx, half mothering mentor. "I love when her New York accent comes out," Randy says. But underneath the Jenny From the Block attitude, Jennifer is all about helping the kids through the pressures of fame. "I get so attached to the contestants. I've already shed some tears. I hate to see them go," she admits about whittling down to the top 20. "We see so much potential there. You want to just guide them through it all. It's about who makes it under the pressure of the show. I tell them week after week, we've got to have our jaws drop every time."
Steven: The rocker will be looking for something real, both from himself and from the contestants. "It's not just about singing. It's character as well. It's that thing you really can't put your finger on, that certain something, I think I know what that is," he says of his judging eye. And of his reasons for choosing to do Idol, besides watching J.Lo in The Back-up Plan (no, seriously—he said seeing her awesomeness and vulnerability in that movie is what made him want to do the show), Steven says, "I wanted to test my limitations. I just wanted to see if I could be real and pick from all these kids. "
Randy: He's been there from the beginning, and he's got the veteran edge. But don't think he'll be the one filling Simon Cowell's shoes tight V-necks. "You're gonna have to have the whole package. But you'll hear from all three of us," he promises. However, Randy insists that they won't be afraid to be honest. "You're going to get a real read from us. If it's terrible, it's terrible."
Ryan: The host is just anxious to go live. "I don't know what it's like live yet, but I'm looking forward to that. It'll hopefully be like a circus. This show is very much like a sporting event and you've got to host it like one," Ryan says. And though AI is now minus one blunt Brit, Seacrest is looking forward to the new format. "I'm inspired by the new life here and I love it. Simon and I had our banter, and people knew us for that. But this is a whole new dynamic. It'll be fun and very funny. I think you'll be entertained by that. There's a genuine camaraderie among this group."
Other notable highlights from the panel:
Male or Female Winner? How about both? "We have a whole category of cross-dressers," jokes Steven, before Randy quickly quipped that the cross-dressing was "sponsored by Ryan."
Judging How-To: "How they judge the good [contestants] is just as important as how well they judge the bad ones," Nigel Lythgoe theorizes. And as for the new panel, Nigel says, "They bring more critique than just ‘pack your suitcase, you're going home.'"
Crop o' Confidence: "Trust me, we've got some heat this season," Randy says wide-eyed about the crop of contestants. But our favorite description of this year's talent came from executive producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz: "The confidence is frightening. Absolutely fabulous. It's just different this year, which is great for us, and hopefully great for the public."
Original Tunes: A new addition this year is that Idol hopefuls will be performing a song of their own and a song chosen for them during the top 20 round, which has made audiences wary. And at first, it made EP Kevin Warwick wary as well. "We always kind of discouraged it before because if you sing a song nobody knows, it might not be very good," he says. "But we've given them the opportunity [this year]. We've been pleasantly surprised so far."
Aerosmith's Status: In case you're reading just for this nugget of info, Steven promises that the band is "just on a break" and "still rocking hard." Better news: Aerosmith is scheduled to release new music and tour in 2011.
Over the next couple days, the gang will be filming the top 40 going to the top 20, causing J.Lo to moan that it will be so hard to decide who to cut. In the meantime, check out the promo above and get ready for the 10th season of Idol madness!