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Fox's 'American Idol 5' returns with more shrieks, slight tweaks


By Reality TV World staff, 01/17/2006 

The fifth season of Fox's American Idol juggernaut will premiere this evening, and while the new season won't feature any of the more significant "higher age limit" changes of seasons past, American Idol's producers have once again slightly tweaked the top-rated show's smash-hit formula.

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Unlike previous seasons, American Idol 5's initial "the good, the bad, and the ugly" open audition broadcasts will focus more on Idol judges Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson reactions to each good or bad singer. "This time, we left the cameras rolling on the judges after the person left the room," American Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe told reporters during a Friday conference call. The change means more screen time for Paula, Simon, and Randy -- and more footage of their squabbles. "At one point, Simon storms out of the room and can't take Randy and Paula anymore and leaves the audition," said Lythgoe.

Also changed in the new season will be the presence of celebrity judges -- in a move that pleased Idol's regular judges, the new season won't have any. Last season's American Idol 4 saw the show demote the celebrity judge concept to an early audition-only feature (with LL Cool J, Gene Simmons, Brandy, Kenny Loggins and Mark McGrath serving as some of last year's guest judges) however according to Lythgoe, the producers felt that even with their reduced role, the guest panelists were rarely candid enough. "It was a weird twist, and we just didn't need it," Jackson previously commented to reporters.

Like Jackson, Cowell -- a long-standing critic of the concept -- is also unlikely to shed many tears about the celebrity judges' departure. "I personally find it a bit insulting having celebrity judges on the show. To me, it's our role and nobody else's to judge these kids, because we've chosen them from the beginning," the recently re-signed sharp-tongued judge had vented to USA Today back during American Idol 2.

The new season will also feature a few other changes that American Idol's producers presumably didn't have as much control over -- namely the presence of more country music and hard rockers during the auditions (a side effect from having Carrie Underwood and Bo Bice as Idol 4's Final 2), and more early season attitude from the contestants.

"I've never heard kids blame other kids on stage to their faces before, and that has occurred this season," Lythgoe told reporters during his conference call. "I have never heard people quit on stage in front of everybody and give the judges a mouthful, and say 'I'm quitting the show because of what you have said or what you have done,' and that has occurred... I have never seen people willing to s*** on other people as much as this crowd."

"I have seen the most aggressive contestants we've ever had," Idol host Ryan Seacrest had previously noted to USA Today. "[They trash each other] in front of the judges and other contestants."

After tonight's special two-hour debut featuring coverage of the competition's San Francisco auditions, another one-hour broadcast -- covering Idol 5's Austin tryouts -- will air tomorrow night at 8PM ET/PT, followed by five more Tuesday and Wednesday broadcasts covering the show's fifth season tryouts in Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Denver and Greensboro.

Once the broadcasts of the regional tryouts are over, coverage of American Idol 5's Hollywood round will begin airing on Wednesday, February 8 at 8PM ET/PT. Thankfully, the Hollywood coverage will fill only three broadcasts, ending with the announcement of the show's Top 24 semifinalists -- twelve men and twelve women -- on Wednesday, February 15.

After the semi-finalists are announced, the show's weekly performance shows will start, resulting in the show adopting a thrice-weekly broadcast schedule similar to the Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday format used for last season's American Idol 4. The twelve male semi-finalists will perform on Tuesday, February 21, followed by the twelve female semi-finalists on Wednesday, February 22, after which an hour-long live results show broadcast on Thursday, February 23 at 8PM ET/PT will send the two male and female singers who received the fewest votes home.

The next two weeks will continue the same thrice-weekly format, ending with a live one-hour results show broadcast on Thursday, March 9 at 8PM ET/PT that will reveal the season's Top 12 finalists.

Once the finals begin, American Idol will resume the same broadcast schedule as it had last year, with the show's one hour performance shows airing Tuesdays at 8PM ET/PT and its half-hour results shows airing Wednesdays at 9PM ET/PT.


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