Ex-contestants weigh in on what American Idol really needs
The mad dash to replace Simon Cowell and Ellen DeGeneres — which at press time hasn’t concluded — isn’t the only change that’s desperately needed on American Idol. With the show entering its 10th season and ratings down 18 percent, even newly reinstalled exec producer Nigel Lythgoe says priorities should be refocused. ”I can’t wait for the day when we take the spotlight off the bloody judges,” he told EW earlier this month. With any luck, Idol will also move away from earnest singer-songwriter types like Kris Allen and Lee DeWyze and back to powerhouse vocalists like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, who simply showed up and sang the hell out of hit records. Though it sure would help if some more of those hits were written after 1970. ”Having Frank Sinatra and Elvis weeks are good for the show, because there’s still a lot of people who watch the show who love that kind of thing,” concedes season 3 contestant Jon Peter Lewis, who’s now touring while writing a new album. ”But for the artist, it’s not good at all. After Idol, contestants are always in need of a major overhaul to brand themselves, and that’s something that requires a lot of intelligence and a lot of money.” Having the contestants spend more time with the mentors so they can ”pick their brains to find out what made them huge” would also help, says season 6’s Melinda Doolittle. She was especially impressed by Harry Connick Jr. last year and how he worked on arrangements and provided accompaniment on stage. In fact, she was so thrilled by his involvement that she thinks he could help end this exhaustive search for judges. Says Doolittle: ”Just get Harry and call it a day.”
— Lynette Rice, with reporting by Adam B. Very
Andie MacDowell sashays into Footloose remake
With Dennis Quaid set to play the righteous rock-music-hating reverend in the upcoming Footloose update, who will play his patient wife, Vi? Andie MacDowell has just signed on to writer-director Craig Brewer’s (Hustle & Flow) reconception of the 1984 movie about a small town that bans dancing. Quaid and MacDowell actually played husband and wife once before, in HBO’s Emmy-nominated 2001 movie Dinner With Friends. The acting vets should be a welcome addition to a cast that includes relative newbies Kenny Wormald (Center Stage: Turn It Up) and Julianne Hough (Dancing With the Stars) as the teen leads. Production is set to begin shortly.
— Nicole Sperling