Confirming what we pretty much already knew, FOX announced on Monday afternoon that Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick, Jr. will return as "American Idol" judges for next spring's 14th installment.
The network also cleared up the general lack of suspense surrounding Ryan Seacrest and his return. Short version? Yes. Ryan Seacrest will maintain his place as "American Idol" Designated Continuity.
Without Kevin Reilly or anybody currently filling Kevin Reilly's position, FOX had to mix things up with its network statements.
"Jennifer, Keith, Harry and Ryan are the very best in the business at what they do, and I’m thrilled that they are returning to 'American Idol' for another season. Each brings unique qualities and expertise to the team, but they all share the same passion for helping undiscovered singers achieve the American dream," blurbs David Hill, Senior Executive Vice President, 21st Century Fox.
All three judges had been widely expected to return, especially once FOX announced early auditions in New Orleans, New York (Long Island, really) and Nashville, home turf for Connick, Lopez and, to some degree, Urban.
Adds Trish Kinane, President, Entertainment, FremantleMedia North America and "Idol" executive producer. “I am delighted that our dream team of Jennifer, Keith and Harry are back for 'American Idol XIV.' Their experience, humor and passion for new talent has made them one of 'Idol’s' strongest-ever judging panels, and coupled with the expertise and charisma of Ryan Seacrest, we are ready to get out there to find the best talent in America."
Hmmm... Now I liked Harry, Keith and J-Lo's weekly fashion show as much as the next guy, but are we really going to say this judging panel was better than the Randy/Simon/Paula classic flavor? Yes, they were significantly more substantive, at their best, than Simon's two lovable stooges ever attempted to be, but they also had real difficulties with the group of Finalists that they (and the producers) selected. For all of the treating judging that sometimes took place, "Idol" ratings shrank dramatically, hitting lows almost on an episode-by-episode basis through much of the spring.
Despite those problematic numbers, FOX execs expected the full judging panel to return even in May when the network also revealed that Season 14 would be trimmed to only 37 spring hours, down from 50+ in recent years.
"I don't think it's a matter of turning around," The now-departed Reilly said at the time. "I think it's about being a vital show... 'Idol' is not gonna come back to being the ratings champion it once was, but what we believe is the show can be on the air for many years to come and will be a potent time period contender and a top-rated unscripted show that's a quality show, that people love that we can do business with, in the same way that 'Survivor' hasn't been at the top-ratings for many years and it has vital seasons year after year. That's the mode we're now in with 'Idol.' It's not about turning it around. I think that story's been filed and now it's just about making it a good show for many years to come."
Oh and in case you've forgotten, Caleb Johnson was your Season 13 winner.
Are you happy to have the judges and Ryan back?