American Idol Revival: How Different Will It Look on ABC? (Hint: Not Very)

American Idol ABC Revival Judges Season 16

Even though it’s now airing on ABC, this… is the American Idol you remember.

The mega-hit singing competition is switching to the Alphabet network after 15 seasons on Fox, with a fresh trio of superstar judges: Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan. But a trailer for the new Idol has the same aspirational, all-American vibe as the original — the judges still tell the best auditioners, “You’re going to Hollywood!” — and host Ryan Seacrest (the lone on-air holdover from Idol‘s Fox days) says the ABC version will look a lot like the old one.

“It’s different, obviously, because of these personalities,” Seacrest told reporters at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, motioning to the judges seated next to him, “but the show, at its core, works… To change the show drastically, in terms of format, I think would be a mistake.”

The biggest change might be on the judges’ panel: Seacrest lavished praise on the new judges, who he says came in looking “to collaborate, to take this seriously and to give the franchise what it deserves.” (Hmmm… maybe some backhanded shade aimed towards Idol‘s last few judges on Fox?) He later reiterated “how legitimately seriously” Perry, Richie and Bryan take their duties of finding a new superstar.

But do any of them bring a Simon Cowell-level meanness to the panel? “There’s only one Simon Cowell,” executive producer Trish Kinane admitted, insisting that producers didn’t set out to replicate the classic Idol panel, personality-wise. “We wanted judges with credibility, who knew what they were talking about… who were articulate, and genuinely cared about the contestants.” One new judge does sort of remind her of mean old Simon, though: “Katy is very blunt. She’s not mean, but she is brutally honest… if she doesn’t think they have what it takes, she tries to steer them somewhere else.”

After a Season 9 stint as a guest judge, Perry now has a permanent seat on the Idol panel, and she says she’s focused on “finding an actual Idol, making that good old American dream come to life once again… we need those beautiful stories right now to help lift us up.” Plus, she can relate to the aspiring singers, she says, from her days as a struggling artist: “I had two cars repossessed, I had three labels drop me… I was eating Trader Joe’s frozen chicken nuggets every day of the week! I know exactly where you are!”

The new/old American Idol premieres Sunday, March 11 at 8/7c on ABC.

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