After a turbulent season that involved slumping ratings and a highly publicized feud between two of its judges, a fresh panel of judges kicks off the 13th season of “American Idol” on Wednesday night.
Long gone are former judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj, whose one-season stint on “Idol” was marred by a season-long feud and an off-screen blow-up during the auditions stage of the competition, which was highly publicized by TMZ. Replacing them will be Jennifer Lopez, who returns to the show after taking a season off, and Harry Connick Jr.
Wednesday's 7 p.m. airing, which is the first of the two-night, four-hour premiere, is Connick Jr.'s first full-time gig on the Fox mega-show. He appeared temporarily as a guest judge in 2010 and served in a mentorship role in 2012.
If the season premiere is any indication, Connick Jr. may provide the show with a family-friendly presence at the judges' table in addition to his vast musical prowess. In part one of the two-night premiere, Connick Jr. comes off as a likable family man, discouraging one young female vocalist from singing provocative lyrics and mentioning at one point that he will not permit his 17-year-old daughter to get a tattoo.
“I have pretty good judgment about what's out of bounds in terms of what's crass or lewd or inappropriate,” Connick Jr. said in a 2009 interview with Christianity Today International.
Connick Jr. briefly attended an all-male Catholic high school in his youth and admits that his religious values still play a part in his role as an entertainer.
“I'm perfectly comfortable talking about my faith, but I don't talk about some things unless I'm asked about them," he told Christianity Today International. "I don't feel like I'm on a mission for the church. I'm a practicing Catholic, but I don't necessarily think it's something people want to hear me talk about. But if I'm asked about it, I'll talk about it. I think the worlds of faith and entertainment can coexist peacefully.”
Lopez was a judge during Seasons 10 and 11. Keith Urban reprises his role as the panel’s third judge for the second consecutive season. Ryan Seacrest will host the show for the 13th time, and Randy Jackson, a familiar face for longtime fans, will appear as an in-house mentor for contestants later in the season.
The ratings for “American Idol” have steadily decreased since its sixth season. Ratings for season premieres have declined annually from more than 37 million viewers in 2007 to just under 18 million in 2013 — the lowest ever for an "Idol" season premiere, as reported by Entertainment Weekly.
Season finale ratings have also reached a record low with only 14.3 million viewers at the conclusion of Season 12, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The show has had considerably stiffer competition in recent years, with the series premieres of NBC’s “The Voice” and Fox's “The X Factor,” both of which debuted in 2011.