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‘American Idol’ producers talk changes for Season 13, new role for Randy Jackson

With Season 13 of “American Idol” underway and seemingly back on track with new energy, a new judges panel (Jennifer Lopez returns after judging Season 10 and 11, new judge Harry Connick Jr. and returning Season 12 judge Keith Urban) and a new theme, the show is back to where it should be. Ratings have been solid with the show winning it’s time slots for every night that its aired so far. The addition of multi-talented singer/actor Harry Connick Jr. as judge is a breath of fresh air and perhaps what the show needed all along. Classic TV Examiner caught up with the show’s new executive producers, Trish Kinane and Per Blankens, after the FOX TCA panel to get some insight into the their plans for the show discuss former judge Randy Jackson’s new role on the show. Check out the interview below:

American Idol airs Wednesdays and Thursdays on FOX

What can viewers look forward to in the new season and what of Randy Jackson’s role in “Idol” this year? Will the mentoring that he will be doing similar to Jimmy Iovine’s role?

Trish Kinane: It will be a very different. It’s Randy and it’s going to be different because he comes from being a judge so he brings a totally different perspective. But also with this workshop that we are talking about, it’s a different role. That role wasn’t there before. It’s going to be much more detailed, if Randy sees something he’ll say “Let me help you with it,” where as Jimmy was a commentator and that worked great but this is a very different role.

Will Randy be in the studio when they record the singles at all?

Trish Kinane: We don’t know yet, probably. I don’t have the answer to that, but maybe he will be because he would be their adviser.

Sweden’s version of “American Idol” is the most successful one outside of the US. How will some of Swedish elements be added into the US “American Idol” show?

Per Blankens: All of us needed to bring in a new way to look at the show. I brought some ideas…like the judges handing out the Golden Ticket themselves. Back in the day, someone else gave them the Golden Ticket.

Trish Kinane: So the contestants get a little more interaction with the judges if they hand them out themselves. It creates a more intimate moment between them and the judges. It’s a tiny thing we just went with.

Will Ryan Seacrest’s role as host be any different this season?

Trish Kinane: We’re not ready to talk about the live shows in detail yet but we are going to use him in the studio more, different places in the back, there’s going to be slightly different ways in organizing the kids.

So many viewers were turned off by the judge drama. How can you insure viewers that this season is not going to be about the judges?

Per Blankens:The show is not about the judges and America is one of few markets where you have celebrities on the panel that are judges. In other countries, you have industry experts, the judges are not famous. They are not celebrities. They became famous from being on the show. Think about the beginning of the show; Randy Jackson and Simon [Cowell]. At the beginning having famous people on the panel helps because that’s the only faces they recognize but that’s not interesting. Especially after that, you want it to be about the kids. You want them to be the real stars.

Trish Kinane: To answer your question, I’m hoping that viewers will give it another go this year. I think it’s a very well made version of “American Idol” and once they see it, hopefully word of mouth will spread that it’s a good show that a family can watch, a multi-generational thing with families sitting down together to watch “Idol.” We hope it’s that.

Talk about how you’ll keep the show still recognizable as “American Idol?”

Trish Kinane: That’s exactly what we did by examining every single element. My last job before I came to “American Idol” was at Freemantle as President of World Wide Entertainment. I looked at what our producers were trying to do all around the world, doing shows from or all around the world, looking after ”Idol,” “The X-Factor, “ “The Price is Right,” “[America’s] Got Talent.” Keeping the essence of what makes all those formats great, what makes them work, what makes them interesting and yet try to keep them alive. This is Season 13 so it is a fine line. So Per loves and knows the “American Idol” format, he’s been doing it a long time in Sweden. These guys [the judges] know and love the format and our producers do as well so there will be some freshness from our producers do as well. So I think, yes we can refresh this. Yes, but we are not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater and go to extremes. That isn’t the show. This show is right and when it’s done with some really great judges and some really great talent, it works. Interesting things for Season 13.

Any changes to the way the voting goes?

Trish Kinane: We’re talking about some innovations to the voting. It’s still America voting but nothing to announce.

What did you love about the Swedish version of Idol and how did you decide what to include in American Idol?

Trish Kinane: Some of what was done in Sweden is already included, like The Chamber. That moment, that was in Sweden. The themes – getting it back to something that reflects what the kids are and how they are growing. From starting out in an audition, in say Detroit and ending up in the Nokia Theater, they’re developing like themselves and their paths. And there’s more small things like…there might be a theme that’s called “This Is Me.”

Catch “American Idol XIII” Wednesdays and Thursdays and the live shows beginning March 27th on FOX.

To read more articles with actors from your favorite shows and movies, check out my pages at Daytime TV Examiner, Classic TV Examiner and Animation Examiner. Also, follow me on Twitter at @Phyllis_Thomas

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