To be clear: I did not want American Idol back.
I may even have been a little pitchy in my protest of ABC’s revival of a singing competition whose 15-season run on Fox feels as if it ended five minutes ago, and of TV’s inability in general to let its dead rest.
So it’s with mild annoyance that I report that Sunday’s two-hour premiere is more fun than I expected, and not just because it’s bookended by the auditions of Langhorne’s Catie Turner and West Philadelphia’s Dennis Lorenzo. (Look for another area contestant, former America’s Got Talent finalist Mara Justine, of Galloway, N.J., on Monday’s two-hour show.)
You might not see this coming from the network that only this week broadcast the footage of a woman being dumped by her fiancé on The Bachelor for the supposed entertainment of millions, but ABC’s Idol — so far — looks to be a kinder, gentler version than Fox’s.
Not everyone who auditions for celebrity judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan is going to Hollywood, but most of the contestants who make it to Sunday’s show are at least moderately talented, or at least don’t seem to have been invited in just to be publicly humiliated.
Public humiliation isn’t really this trio’s style, anyway. No one appears to be aspiring to Simon Cowell’s old role of acid-tongued truth-teller (not that I didn’t miss him a little), and Bryan, in particular, is so eager to make the judging panel seem like a happy family that he declares them to be like “peas in a pod.”
But then we’re talking about a 41-year-old man who, in all seriousness, uses the word “dadgum.” He knows the music business, though, and so do Richie and Perry (who’s clearly enjoying herself amid a parade of contestants who get weak-kneed in her presence).
Even Ryan Seacrest, who may come in for extra scrutiny this season after a former stylist’s accusations of sexual misconduct — allegations he’s denied — seems to have toned down the snark a little.
If you loved the old audition shows for their viciousness and occasional freak-show vibe, a Disneyfied Idol might not be for you. I hated them. Time enough for things to get mean when the kids get to Hollywood.
Fox, which had broken with American Idol producer FremantleMedia over, among other things, the network’s desire to postpone any reboot till 2020, isn’t exactly taking the high road on the show’s move to ABC.
On Sunday, it plans to air a two-hour special, O.J. Simpson: The Lost Confession? in the same time slot, to be hosted by Soledad O’Brien. Though Lost is a strange way to describe the 2006 interview to which the title appears to refer.
Conducted by book editor Judith Regan in conjunction with the book, If I Did It, that was originally to be published by Fox’s corporate sibling HarperCollins, the interview, which has never aired, reportedly has Simpson, acquitted in the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman, talking, “hypothetically,” about how he might have killed them.
The idea’s as repugnant as it was in 2006, when a planned two-part interview special was canceled, along with the book, by News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch, who described it as an “ill-considered project,” reportedly after several Fox affiliates refused to air it. The book was published the following year by another publisher, with changes, after a bankruptcy court awarded the Goldman family the rights to it.
Regan, who was subsequently fired by HarperCollins, filed a $100 million defamation suit against Murdoch’s News Corp., and eventually settled out of court, is scheduled to be part of a panel of analysts in Sunday’s special.
American Idol. 8 p.m. Sunday, ABC.