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5 Ideas From Our Wildest Dreams to Restore ‘American Idol’ to Glory

Bring back Paula, Simon and Randy, plus four other ways that could make the final season appointment viewing again

A week ago, Fox announced during its upfronts in New York City that “American Idol” would be ending its run after 15 years on the air. On the heels of “Idol” crowning Nick Fadriani from Connecticut the Season 14 winner, TheWrap has recovered from its upfronts hangover and is ready to offer some unsolicited advice for restoring the final season back to glory. Fox, are you listening?

During its heyday, “Idol” drew up to a whopping 37 million viewers an episode. But this latest season has suffered some all-time ratings lows, premiering down 25 percent year-over-year with 11.2 million and closing out this year’s finale with one of the least-watched on record.

Original “Idol” fans as well as pioneer TV journalists, who were first to cover the show, perked up last week when Fox co-chief Dana Walden said she would welcome any of the original panel back and hinted at alumni returns. But the wind was abruptly knocked out of sails on social media after Fox subsequently announced that all three of its current judges, Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr., as well as veteran host Ryan Seacrest would return for the show’s final season.

But TheWrap has a few ideas on how to make this season the best “Idol” ever and court former viewers back to the series, who tuned out ages ago.

Here are 5 ideas in our wildest dream how to make the 15th and final season a worthy swan song:

paula simon randy1. Go back to show’s roots with a Simon, Paula and Randy return
Though Fox is hellbent on keeping Lopez, Urban and Connick, producers would be smart to bring back the original team that made “A.I.” a TV powerhouse. Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson bring the nostalgia factor as well as the chemistry among judges that the show hasn’t seemed rebottle with any of the multiple variations of judges panels. The rotating roster of failed panel combos has included Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Ellen DeGeneres and Kara DioGuardi.

Fox and “Idol” producers should consult Tyra Banks and Mark Burnett on their “America’s Next Top Model” and “Survivor” blow-out seasons. Here’s the reality: Gone are the days that “Idol” created viable multi-platinum recording artists like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, originally the show’s calling card which provided bragging rights over copycat shows. So instead of scouting for a new winner who will inevitably be dropped by their record label after a sub-par album absent of any Top 40 hits gets released again, producers should cast the last hurrah with all-stars and fan favorites vying for the title. Imagine the likes of Sanjaya, Blake Lewis, David Archuleta, Pia Toscano, Kellie Pickler, Angie Miller and LaToya London all competing against each other. How could anyone resist that?

lionel richie

3. Bring back a 4th rotating guest judge
Lionel Richie, Robin Gibb, Quentin Tarantino and the late Donna Summer all served as guest judges on “Idol.” Other guests judges were used in the audition rounds, including Gene Simmons and LL Cool J, Jewel, Olivia Newton-John, Neil Patrick Harris, Katy Perry and Season 8 runner up, Adam Lambert. Guest judges could provide a much-needed shot in the arm for otherwise staid and repetitious critiques.

Getty Images

Getty Images

4. Bring back theme nights
Theme nights may have proved to be a disaster for some contestants forced out of their comfort zone by singing rock classics when their forte is R&B, but it sure made for some good TV.


5. Bring Back the Cheesy Opening Group Numbers
“American Idol’s” Brady Bunch-style opening performances invented “hate-watching” before “hate-watching” existed. See Season 7 photo above. Enough said.