What other music competition shows?
The American Idol team came out swinging Sunday when reporters at Fox's winter TV preview asked how they felt about the threat of similar formats like The X Factor and NBC's The Voice; the latter which will air during the same time frame as Idol this year.
"Idol is still the best TV show that's come on anywhere," Randy Jackson said. "We're the original. We kind of invented this whole game that everybody's now copying — and I say that they're copying it, right?"
Whoa! Is that a dig at former fellow judge Simon Cowell, whose X Factor debuted solidly if not spectacularly last fall? Pretty much. "I mean, Simon's done well with his show, probably not the expectations that he wanted," Jackson said. "But, you know, we wish him well."
Mike Darnell, Fox's head of reality TV, also jumped in to differentiate between Idol and its ilk: "This is a more intimate television show," he said. "[Idol] has stood up extraordinarily tall." Series executive producer Ken Warwick was less diplomatic, calling Leona Lewis, X Factor's first winner in the U.K., a "one-and-a-half"-hit star. Jackson went so far as to slam The Voice's inaugural winner, Javier Colon, as a failed artist at Capitol Records and the show's contestants as "second-chance people." "None of the other shows are producing the stars that we are," Warwick said.
And the trash talk didn't stop there: Darnell brushed off the idea that anyone in the Idol camp might be miffed that Kelly Clarkson, the show's first winner, would be serving as a guest mentor on The Voice. "I think it's a compliment to Idol that this show is creating superstars... We're not hiring a lot of people from The Voice to be on our show," he said. "Right now, everybody chases this show. This is the gold standard."
"We will definitely never ever rip off Star Trek like The Voice did with spinning chairs," Jackson said.
As for what viewers can expect from Idol's forthcoming 11th season (premiering Wednesday, Jan. 18 at 8/7c), there will be a new performance round after Hollywood week. (Last year, the contestants were asked to sing a Beatles song in Las Vegas.) This year, they'll be tasked with performing late-'50s numbers in a small group. They'll also endure something described as a "one voice, one instrument" round.
Jennifer Lopez added that last year's new lineup of judges are "a little more comfortable" this time around. "There are a lot more nos," Jackson said. At the same time, when asked if the judges were going to be more critical than they were last season, he defended last year's feel-good tone. "The judges should always call it as they see it — not as the audience wants them to call it," he said. As far as judging goes, "this is the most authentic talent show," Jackson said.
Added Lopez: "There's nothing wrong with tough love, but there is nothing wrong with a little bit of encouragement either... At the end of the day we're trying to get them through to be the winner."
Host Ryan Seacrest was also on hand to say that he doesn't see himself leaving Idol any time soon, even while rumors persist that he's in talks to succeed Matt Lauer should the Today show host leave at the end of his contract this year. "I can't imagine life without American Idol," he said, adding that he couldn't comment on the Today show talks. "Our expectation is that Ryan will stay with the show," Darnell added.