A big surprise is apparently awaiting American Idol's Top 12 eighth-season finalists.

"There's a big surprise coming when we get to the Top 12, but I can't reveal it right now," Fox reality chief Mike Darnell told TV Week in an interview released Sunday.  "It is something that will be talked about and is something I think that has some element of controversy surrounding it."

While Darnell declined to reveal specifics about the eighth-season surprise, Idol enthusiasts can breathe a sigh of relief since he hinted that it won't impact the show's "core."

"It's not going to change what you think of American Idol and we don't want to do that," he told TV Week.  "This show is, you know, a phenomenon. It's American, it's apple pie. We're not changing the core of the show."

Darnell added that details surrounding the surprise are not widely known by those involved with and participating in Idol's eighth season.

"No one knows," he told TV Week.  "It's a long season and you want to keep as many surprises for the audience, for the press, for everybody, as you go along. Some controversies will pop out. But this is something that we sort of felt like, here's one set of things we're doing, we're going to wait and give you the other set when we get to the final 12."

American Idol's eighth-season finalists will also apparently have some additional surprises awaiting them, according to Darnell, who said the contestants will be residing together in a house rather than several individual apartments like the show's last few casts.

"We'll be doing more behind-the-scenes stuff with the kids, and they're going to live in a house, so if anything -- if sparks fly there, we'll show some of that," he explained to TV Week.  "We're hoping to get more of who they are -- more of the reality version, to be honest with you. It makes the show tick."

In addition, Darnell also hinted that the eighth-season contestants will probably be receiving a visit from original Idol champ Kelly Clarkson -- whose fourth album "All I Ever Wanted" is due to drop March 17.

"I believe you might see something actually in the next couple of weeks from Kelly," Darnell told TV Week when asked if Clarkson would be coming back to the show.

Clarkson apparently won't be the only big star to grace Idol's eighth season, as Darnell said some talented musical mentors will also be featured.

"We're going to big it up. (Musicians) will have to be ridiculously big this season for us to have them as mentors," he told TV Week.
About The Author: Christopher Rocchio
Christopher Rocchio is an entertainment reporter for Reality TV World and has covered the reality TV genre for several years.