After an “American Idol” season with a judging panel that seemed like a five-month-long Thanksgiving dinner with two feuding aunts who simultaneously try to ignore each other while dissing each other, the show has returned to being the type of TV comfort food it’s supposed to be.
The newest incarnation of the panel features returning judges (though from different seasons) Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez joined by newbie judge Harry Connick Jr. And in terms of chemistry (at least based on the premiere), this group is the best since the show introduced us to Randy, Simon and Paula in 2002.
Though “American Idol” is primarily about the talent of the contestants, the judges are key in setting the tone. On that level, Urban, Lopez and Connick are sibling-esque.
They can disagree one minute (like when Connick accused Urban and Lopez of being too enamored with singers who do all kinds of vocal gymnastics) and clown around the next (such as when Urban and Lopez laughingly egged Connick on when he cradled a contestant who was a fan of his.)
Connick’s wry and self-deprecating sense of humor may be the linchpin to the group’s chemistry. He constantly made fun of himself because few contestants actually knew who he was, while they positively gushed over Jennifer Lopez.
For her part, Lopez, who has garnered a diva reputation through the years, doesn’t put on airs here. Her relatability and down-to-earthness with the contestants come across well. The same goes for Urban, who seems to genuinely be pulling for every singer who comes in like a supportive and compassionate big brother.
More importantly, all the judges have the musical know-how to offer valid insight and advice to the novices before them – and they can articulate it well. At this point, it seems like Connick will be the toughest critic, but he’ll do it in a constructive way.
The show as a whole moved along at a rapid pace and focused more on singers with talent than the ones who sing poorly or are simply crazy.
Will that mean a ratings boost for the hit show that lost a lot of viewers last season? Time will tell. But new executive producer Per Blankens has done an excellent job in firming up the show’s foundation while also adding some necessary renovations. In my opinion, that earns “American Idol” 2014 a golden ticket.
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