American Idol's ninth season will return to the show's previous format which features 24 semifinalists, a gender-balanced gradual elimination process, and does not include a "Wild Card" semifinals round.
This year's eighth edition had featured 36 semifinalists, a bracket-style semifinals format that ignored gender, and revived the additional second-chance "Wild Card" round that had not been used since Idol's third season in 2004.
American Idol's ninth season will premiere over the course of two consecutive nights with a two-hour broadcast on Tuesday, January 12 and a 75-minute broadcast on Wednesday, January 13 -- with both beginning at 8PM ET/PT. The premiere episodes will feature highlights from summer auditions in Boston and Atlanta, respectively.
Additional episodes featuring this summer's auditions in Chicago, Orlando, Dallas, Los Angeles and Denver will then continue over five more one-hour broadcasts. The final audition episode will air February 2.
Due to Paula Abdul's surprise departure, ninth-season auditions featured a series of guest judges in her former judging seat: Victoria Beckham (Denver and Boston), Mary J. Blige (Atlanta), Joe Jonas and Neil Patrick Harris (Dallas), Kristin Chenoweth (Orlando), Shania Twain (Chicago), and Katy Perry and Avril Lavigne (Los Angeles).
After a special "The Road to Hollywood" audition episode on February 3, coverage of American Idol's ninth season "Hollywood Round" -- which will feature the introduction of Ellen DeGeneres, Abdul's judging panel replacement -- will begin on Tuesday, February 9 at 8PM ET/PT and continue the following night at 9PM ET/PT.
Similar to last season, Fox will broadcast an additional two "Hollywood Round" episodes on February 16 and 17.
American Idol's ninth-season Top 24 semifinalists -- 12 males and 12 females -- will then be revealed on the one-hour February 17 broadcast. Prior to last season, Idol had featured 24 semifinalists since its 2005 fourth season (Idol's second and third seasons featured 32 semifinalists while its initial 2002 season featured 30 semifinalists).
Once Idol's ninth-season semifinals begin, the contestants will be divided into male and female groups and compete separately. Both groups will then gradually be whittled to six finalists via three semifinals performance rounds that will eliminate two male and two female semifinalists each week based on viewer voting.
Like Idol's most recent pre-2009 editions, the format will result in each finalist having given three semifinals performances and a gender-balanced finalist field.
Idol's 2009 season had divided its 36 semifinalists into three groups that each performed once, after which three members of each group immediately advanced to the finals based on viewer voting. The judges then picked four additional finalists after a "Wild Card" round in which eight non-advancing semifinalists were selected to perform a second time. Eight male and five female contestants ended up in the finals.
The Top 12 female semifinalists will perform for the first time on Tuesday, February 23 at 8PM ET/PT, while the Top 12 male semifinalists will perform for the first time the following night in the same timeslot. Home viewers will be able to cast their votes immediately following each broadcast.
American Idol's first live ninth-season results show will then air on Thursday, February 25 at 8PM ET/PT, in which two male and two female semifinalists will be eliminated based on home viewer votes.
American Idol's ninth season will continue with a similar broadcast schedule over the next two weeks -- with the female semifinalists performing on Tuesday nights and the male semifinalists performing on Wednesday nights before two of each are sent home on Thursday nights. The Top 12 ninth-season finalists will be revealed at the conclusion of the March 11 broadcast.
American Idol's Top 12 ninth-season finalists will then take the stage for the first time on Tuesday, March 16, with one finalist's journey coming to an end when home viewer votes are revealed on Wednesday, March 17.
The following is American Idol's entire early ninth-season broadcast schedule:
- Tuesday January 12 8-10PM ET/PT - Season Premiere Part 1, Boston Auditions
- Wednesday, January 13 8-9:15PM ET/PT - Season Premiere Part 2, Atlanta Auditions
- Tuesday, January 19 8-9PM ET/PT - Chicago Auditions
- Wednesday, January 20 8-9PM ET/PT - Orlando Auditions
- Tuesday, January 26 8-9PM ET/PT - Dallas Auditions
- Wednesday, January 27 9-10PM ET/PT - Los Angeles Auditions
- Tuesday, February 2 8-9PM ET/PT - Denver Auditions
- Wednesday, February 3 9-10PM ET/PT - "The Road to Hollywood" Audition Episode
- Tuesday, February 9 8-9PM ET/PT - Hollywood Round, Part 1
- Wednesday, February 10 9-10PM ET/PT - Hollywood Round, Part 2
- Tuesday, February 16 8-9PM ET/PT - Hollywood Round, Part 3
- Wednesday, February 17 9-10PM ET/PT - Hollywood Round, Part 4 (Top 24 Semifinalists Announced)
- Tuesday, February 23 8-10PM ET/PT - Top 12 Female Semifinalists Perform
- Wednesday, February 24 8-10PM ET/PT - Top 12 Male Semifinalists Perform
- Thursday, February 25 8-9PM ET/PT - First Live Results Show (Two Male and Two Female Contestants Eliminated)
- Tuesday, March 2 8-10PM ET/PT - Top 10 Female Semifinalists Perform
- Wednesday, March 3 8-10PM ET/PT - Top 10 Male Semifinalists Perform
- Thursday, March 4 8-9PM ET/PT - Second Live Results Show (Two Male and Two Female Contestants Eliminated)
- Tuesday, March 9 8-9PM ET/PT - Top 8 Female Semifinalists Perform
- Wednesday, March 10 9-10PM ET/PT - Top 8 Male Semifinalists Perform
- Thursday, March 11 8-9PM ET/PT - Third Live Results Show (Two Male and Two Female Contestants Eliminated, Top 12 Finalists Announced)
- Tuesday, March 16 8-10PM ET/PT - Top 12 Finalists Perform Live
- Wednesday, March 17 9-10PM ET/PT - First Finals Live Results Show (One Finalist Eliminated)