Still worshipping Idol
Still worshipping Idol

American Idol boldly claims it is the only TV talent show to create genuine superstars but last week in California at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour in Pasadena, Fox' president of alternative entertainment Mike Darnell agreed there were too many singing shows on television.

The Voice Australia was a smash hit in its first season last year and the US version has affected American Idol's audience share but Darnell isn't perturbed.

"There are too many shows on the air probably and they are all taking each other down a little bit - literally every one of these shows, including The Voice, is down 18 to 20 per cent," he said.

"But this is the king of the shows, this is the one, the only one that makes stars; period. And people keep coming back to it; period."

The key, according to Darnell, is renewing Idol every few years. He believes the show has been reinvigorated for its 12th season with three new judges - Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and former The Voice Australia judge Keith Urban - joining Randy Jackson in the hunt for America's next Idol.

Global country music star Urban won a legion of new fans sitting in one of the big red spinning chairs on The Voice Australia last year.

Why should Aussie viewers tune in to see him, and the performers, on American Idol this year in its fast-tracked return to free-to-air after several years on Foxtel?

"The first and foremost thing is we have heard incredible singers, that's what it's got to be about," Urban said.

"I've sat at home watching the show myself, sort of being the armchair critic and the thing that always gets me when I'm there is someone walks on who you wouldn't imagine has anything and they open their mouth and sing and you go 'oh my God what is that voice'. That's the same thing that always gets me."

Australian talent show winners typically haven't shared the same international success as American Idol winners but Urban puts that down to population.

"The talent is extraordinary here but it was extraordinary on The Voice Australia last year too, you're talking 300 million people versus 20 million so it's just a numbers game."

Carey revealed at first she had trouble saying no to singers, having experienced rejection early in her career.

Minaj had no such problems.

"When I watch these shows and someone says yes to someone who clearly doesn't deserve it, it bothers me," she said.

"It bothers me in my soul and I want to jump into the TV because I feel like people who are talented - it kind of minimises or takes away from how talented they really are. So when I came on I didn't really have a problem saying no; I felt like we are looking for the best of the best."

For his part, Urban believes sometimes getting a knockback is just what a contestant needs.

"Fuel for the fire for an artist is often not the people who believe in us and tell us positive things, it is often the people who are negative. That has been my experience, anyway. People who have said 'you'll never do this, you can't do that' - those people have actually been far more an influence in my motivation to achieve things.

"Hopefully the way in which we say no to these artists is not brutal or cold or callous, it's just being truthful for an artist that's got to hear it. A lot of the time they are surrounded by sycophantic people . . . their family who tell them they are the most amazing thing . . . and they're not the most amazing thing. They're OK, they're not great. But they could be great and hopefully we can help them a little bit."


The West Australian

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