Inside 'American Idol's Big Gamble: New Judges, New Night, New Look


Halperin says competition is part of the reason for the night switch. But it also provides a cover for falling ratings. "If they dip, producers can blame it on the night change," she said.

Halperin also believes Fox is trying to nurture its other big moneymaker, "Glee," which will be showcased on Tuesday, instead of following "Idol."

A New Look

"Idol" goes through a stage makeover every three years and this year, Halperin expects substantial changes.

"They just want to ramp everything up," she said.

Possible changes include a snazzy new set, moving the band to the typical orchestra setting, even new camera angles to engage viewers.

If there's enough drama, producers may bring back the "Idol" mansion, putting contestants under one roof and showing the audience their lives off stage.

The show could also move a lot faster by shortening the elimination process. Rather than a top 24 semi-final round, it could go directly to 12 finalists or 15 depending on what producers finally decide.

A New Diva

If the reports about contract negotiations with Jennifer Lopez are to be believed, then there's a new diva on the judging panel.

But Halperin, who spoke to a season 10 contestant, said J Lo is hardly a diva. "She is really nurturing, gives good advice and is warm and empathetic -- what we wanted Paula to be but less kooky," she said.

The diva, it turns out, is Steven Tyler. "He requires a lot of breaks for makeup and hair touch-ups," Halperin said. "It's interesting to note that the guy with long hair requires as much fussiness in makeup and hair as J Lo."

But Halperin expects a breath of fresh air from Tyler, the judge, who has never before seen the show but has one of the best voices in the music industry.

"He's the most unpredictable," she said. "The more he could potentially riff and speak off-the-cuff the better."

That doesn't mean going back to his old ways, which landed him in rehab, either. "His sobriety is 100 percent apparent," said Halperin, who spoke to show insiders.

New Voting Rules

Producers have until March to iron out voting issues before the first audience votes are cast.

One experiment they may try, Halperin said, is to add online voting, which is not only easier but solves issues with time zones.

Another digital move that could bring in more votes is allowing contestants for the first time to use social media, like Twitter and Facebook.

More Music Business Cred

Last year's "Idol" winner Lee DeWyze sold only 98,000 copies of his debut album.

If winners keep up that track record, the show will continue to lose credibility within the industry. To keep that from happening, the show is shoring up its original premise, which is the search for a superstar. "Idol" has broken its partnership with Sony and is now working with Universal Music Group and Jimmy Iovine, chairman of UMG's Interscope Geffen A&M Records.

Iovine is a veteran producer who has worked with everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Lady Gaga. For "Idol," he has assembled a "dream team" of producer-songwriters including Rodney Jerkins, who made hits for Janet Jackson, and Timbaland, who did the same for Justin Timberlake.

Though it's still being discussed how these hit-makers' original songs will be used, it's a sure bet that there will be a lot more hand-holding with contestants when it comes to choosing the best songs to suit their talents.

"You're you going to see career shaping as the show is happening," Halperin said.

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