NEW YORK — “American Idol” may not be the ratings powerhouse it once was, but for now at least, its star power remains undiminished: Fox has announced that current judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. will be returning for Season 14, as will host Ryan Seacrest.
“I am thrilled our consummate host, Mr. Ryan Seacrest, is returning for Season 14, together with Jennifer, Harry and Keith,” “American Idol” creator and executive producer Simon Fuller said Monday in a statement. “Their interaction, warmth and experience made them an absolute joy to watch. I can’t wait to see their evolution together continue next season.”
The return of Connick, Urban, Lopez and Seacrest will bring some stability to the long-running reality competition series, which has seen its ratings tumble amid a number of judging panel overhauls in recent years. For its 12th season, “American Idol” replaced Lopez, Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler with three new judges: country star Urban plus the toxic duo of Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj. The undisguised hostility between the two divas proved to be ratings poison, with the show’s average numbers declining by a whopping 23 percent.
Producers made a big deal of rejiggering “American Idol” for its 13th incarnation, bringing Lopez back to the fold and hiring nice guy Harry Connick Jr. as a judge. The kinder and gentler retooling may have won “American Idol” some praise from the critics, but it didn’t stop the show from hitting an all-time ratings low this season, with just 10.2 million viewers tuning in for the finale on May 21.
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“American Idol” producers seem to be betting that it’s safer to stick with a formula that kinda-sorta works rather than subjecting the program to yet another drastic face-lift, and it’s not hard to understand why: As indicated by the soft premiere of ABC’s “Rising Star” on June 22, the demise of “The X Factor” this year and the already-dwindling numbers for NBC’s “The Voice,” viewers are apparently growing weary of singing competition shows, so why bother with more gimmicks?