As season 11 approaches for “American Idol,” its stars and producers are finding themselves doing something different: Defending itself from the crush of other, popular singing competitions – both “The Voice” on NBC and “The X-Factor,” the other Fox show that featured former “Idol” mainstays Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul.
The “Idol” team, meeting with the press this week as part of the TV Critics Winter Press Tour, maintained they were nonplussed by the other shows
“Listen, Simon and Paula are dear friends of ours, “ Randy Jackson says. “They started this whole ‘Idol’ tradition with us. I mean, I think that ‘Idol’ is still the best TV show of its kind anywhere. We are the original. We kind of invented this whole game that everybody is now copying.
“Simon has done well with his show, probably not the expectations that he wanted, but, you know, we wish him well, and we’ve gone on with this and done well.”
Fox reality poohbah Mike Darnell makes a stronger distinction between the two.
“ ‘X Factor’ by its nature is sort over the top, more variety. It can’t go louder.” But he calls “Idol” “a more intimate television show, but the biggest difference is: this show is a phenomenon. ‘American Idol’ is the gold standard.”
Besides, executive producer Ken Warwick added, “This is also the show that produces the stars,” calling British “X Factor” biggest winner Leona Lewis “kind of a one and a half hit star for 10 minutes.” That show has produced “no Kelly Clarksons, Carrie Underwoods, Jennifer Hudsons.”
He also noted the upcoming star turn of Katharine McPhee on NBC’s “Smash.” They are real stars. They really are,” Warwick says of the “Idol” bunch. “And none of these shows are producing the stars that we are.”
“Yo,” Jackson pipes in, “The winner of ‘The Voice,’ as I will remind you, was an artist that had a deal at Capitol Records for many years, a failed contract over there. So it’s almost like that show, it was almost like second chance people. It wasn’t like some new artist. Do you know what I mean? It’s a different thing out there to me.”
But what about first season “Idol” winner Kelly Clarkson going to “The Voice” to be a mentor this season?
“I think it’s a compliment to ‘Idol’ that this show has created superstars … and that other shows want to use those superstars in their shows.
“We’re not hiring a lot of people from ‘The Voice’ to be on our show,” he added drily.
“Yeah, it’s great that we can invent some talent for ‘The Voice,’” Jackson adds, rubbing it in.
Besides that, “Idol” executive producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz adds, “They cast their show. They go and find a small number of people to be on their show, whereas we actually hold open calls. Everybody who wants to show, shows up, and we document that process. It’s very different.”
Jackson attempted to retain his cool by making a mock vow. “I must say one thing: We will definitely never ever rip off ‘Star Trek’ like ‘The Voice’ did with spinning chairs. We won’t do that. We won’t stoop that low.”
Season 11 of “American Idol” premieres Jan. 18. Season two of “The Voice” starts after the Super Bowl Feb. 5.