ABC is officially bringing back American Idol for a 16th season (and beyond?). Details are scant at this point, as they ink is still drying on the deal between ABC and producers FremantleMedia North America and 19 Entertainment, but it's never too early to speculate. Here are the answers we want to some burning questions.
1. Who should the judges be?
I would be surprised if any of the old judges return. ABC probably wants to do their own version of the show with their own people. If any of the final group of judges comes back, it would be Keith Urban; Jennifer Lopez has her World of Dance show on NBC and Harry Connick Jr. has his daily talk show, also produced by NBC. Of the classic era judges, Simon Cowell is probably out -- he's busy with America's Got Talent, another NBC production (it should be noted that NBC passed on picking up the Idol reboot). Maybe Paula Abdul or Randy Jackson could be persuaded to come back, though, if the money is right. Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj are definitely out.
Among new people who might be brought in, it might be instructive to look at who has an existing relationship with ABC's parent company Disney. There's former Disney Channel star Demi Lovato, who's currently signed to Disney's record label Hollywood Records (in partnership with Universal's Island and Republic Records, though, hmm). She has experience judging a reality show, appearing on Cowell's Idol knock-off The X Factor in 2012 and 2013. She's even performed on American Idol before. If they want to bring in a successful Idol alum, they could go with Adam Lambert. Queen is signed to Hollywood Records, and he's been fronting the legendary rock band since 2014.
Bringing in a past winner or prominent alum as a judge would be a great way to honor the show's history while going in a new direction. Other than Lambert, though, there are only a few who would be big enough, and even fewer who may want to do it. Kelly Clarkson would probably be a great Idol judge, if she wants to be. Maybe Chris Daughtry could do it? He could be a guest advisor, at least.
If they want a country guy, they should get Luke Bryan. If they want a music industry guy, they should get pop rainmaker Scooter Braun. If they want a superstar who will blow up social media every time she makes a face, the only option is to back up the Brinks truck for Rihanna. If not, Pink would work.
2. Will Ryan Seacrest be back as host?
Maybe! The timing is interesting. Seacrest just joined the ABC family in a big way as the co-host of Live with Kelly and Ryan. Kelly Ripa wants him to do Idol, and when he talked about the revival on Live he didn't say he doesn't want to do it. The thing is, he's in New York now, and Fremantle is reportedly adamant American Idol stays in Los Angeles. But that seems negotiable. Seacrest is also busier than he was a year ago now that he has Live, and he just might not have time to do it.
Still, it's hard to imagine American Idol without Ryan Seacrest. He's been there from the very beginning, and it launched him into ubiquity. I would be more surprised if ABC goes with someone else. And who might that someone else be? Brian Dunkleman, of course!
3. When will it air?
ABC hasn't set any airdate beyond sometime during the 2017-18 season, though TMZ reported that they're aiming for a March 2018 premiere. With The Bachelor franchise and Dancing With the Stars, ABC's schedule is pretty full of unscripted hits as it is, so it'll be a bit of a challenge to find the right place for Idol. It could end up being a summer show that competes with Cowell's America's Got Talent on NBC and Fox's So You Think You Can Dance. Or it could anchor Sundays, a night ABC has struggled with, especially if Once Upon a Time doesn't come back or gets a shortened seventh season. It may not be and definitely shouldn't be two nights a week like it used to be.
4. Is it a good idea?
Who knows! It was canceled due to falling ratings, but the final season was still watched by an average of 11 million people per episode, a very respectable number for 2016. It will never regain its mid-'00s peak when 30 million people watched it, but ABC probably understands that, and Fox apparently didn't. Numbers-wise, it still had life left in it when it was canceled. The issue of "should this be happening?" is more of an existential one. American Idol hasn't launched a star in nearly a decade, and it's had its thunder stolen by imitators like The Voice and Dancing With the Stars. It looks tacky to bring it back so soon after it ended. We've barely had a chance to miss it yet. But hey, with the right panel of judges and a strong field of performers, it could surprise us by becoming vital again.