Snipped from an internal FOX Memo distributed this morning. (thanks sumIdol!)

FOX Network Program Executive Council
DECEMBER 2008 MINUTES

AMERICAN IDOL When will the schedule and any new details about this season be released?

January through March details will hopefully be released before the Holidays. All episodes will be Tuesday-Wednesday. No Thursdayà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s planned; same overall number of hours as last year. There will be 3 weeks of auditions and 2 weeks of Hollywood rounds. There will be 36 contestants coming here to Hollywood as opposed to 24 last year. There will be a wild card week and there will continue to be 12 contestants in the Finals. There will be a couple of more 2 hour shows than in the past. Promotional thrust will have fewer bad singers and more à ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã‹aspirationalà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢ singers. There will be no Idol Gives Back.

So, lets summarize!

  • American Idol will be sticking to its Tuesday/Wednesday schedule – Not a surprise
  • There will be 3 weeks of auditions, down from 4 the past few years -   YES!   Four weeks of auditions, particularly with the bad singers taking up the bulk, had become interminable.
  • There will be a Top 36, rather than a Top 24 – Hm…
  • The Wild Card Week will be re-introduced- Hm…
  • No Thursdays planned- and Hm…
  • There will be 2 weeks of Hollywood Rounds – In the past, there would be at least 3 episodes of Hollywood, which made for some really compelling TV. I think the show really suffered when they cut these back to shoehorn in more crappy auditions.   This is good news
  • There will be a Top 12 as in previous years – Just as it should be.
  • Promotional thrust will have fewer bad singers and more à ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã‹aspirationalà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢ singers. There will be no Idol Gives Back.   -   Fewer bad singers?   Hallelujah.   It was getting to the point where I could not stomach the auditions anymore, they became so predictable and contrived.   I wonder if the death of auditioner Paula Goodspeed has impacted this decision at all.   With a tough economy gripping the nation, giving Idol Gives Back a rest is a good idea.

I’m a little unclear as to how the Semi-final/Wildcard round will play out.   It’s not really outlined in this memo.   Will they go back to the way they did it Seasons 1-3–which was to have groups of contestants perform each week, with the Top vote getters moving on to the Top 12?   The Wildcard round had rejected contestants come back to perform again, filling the remaining Top 12 slots…

Peeps, what do you think?

 
  • http://www.myspace.com/gwendolyndiane GwendolynD

    I freakin’ love the wildcard round. I am now officially exicted about Season 8.

  • dahirsh

    With no Thursdays scheduled I wondered if they’ve abondoned trying to get 6 guys and 6 girls in the top 12.

  • elisad

    I love the wildcard round too. FOX is making good decisions, unlike NBC…

  • t2

    I LOVE the Wildcard round — as long as they don’t “Lisa Leuschner” anyone…fripping Simon/Randy….

  • Suzanne

    I didn’t like the wildcard rounds b/c the singers seemed so awesomely desperate. (Upside–the show could use David A’s “Desperate” as background/mood music.) I hope that they don’t give the judges a pick for the wildcard spots to make up for how the “stupid” public votes. I think that, once the live shows start, the contestants should sink or swim on votes from the audience and that’s it. I didn’t think it was fair during the seasons 2 and 3 (I didn’t see season 1) that the judges picked three of the four that went through, when all the winners of the previous rounds had gotten to the finals from votes from the public alone. (And it’s just another opportunity for Simon to be condescending to us.)

    I guess they think that the show is getting stale. There was great talent last year, but the show choices did have weakness (a second Beatles week, one hour results shows, a one-hour top 5 show–insane).

    I wonder how they’ll do the results shows in the semi-finals? Won’t they need Tues and Wed for performances??

  • Kirsten

    With no Thursdays scheduled I wondered if theyà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢ve abondoned trying to get 6 guys and 6 girls in the top 12.

    Yes, the lack of Thursdays, the increased number of finalists and the wildcard round all make it seem like we are returning to the semi-final format from seasons 1-3.

    While I don’t think it is necessary to split the boys and the girls (you could just have random groups of 12), I did prefer the semi-final format we’ve had for the last four seasons. The problem with the format for 1-3 is that it is even worse for favouring those that get airtime during the auditions and people with big voices. Too many times I’ve seen people with one good song in them get to the finals over really good singers that are a little lower key. With the Orginal semi-final format, the top 2 vote getters moved on (so if you get stuck in a good group, your odds of surviving go down. For example, in Season 2, the top 3 finishers all came from the same group and in Season 3, the top 2 finighers came from the same group). In the newer format, only the bottom two from each group go home each week. It gives us a bit more of a chance to get to know the singers.

    Plus, how is the judge’s pick going to work? In Season 1, the judges picked one wildcard and the audience picked the other (for a total of 10 contestants). In Season 2 and 3, each judge got a pick. So, how do we get to 12 when there are four judges? No audience pick? One of the judges don’t get to pick? Two wild-card rounds (with one audience and one judge pick?). I’m guessing we’ll get 9 contestants for four weeks with the top 2 each week going on and then the wildcard? Or maybe 3 weeks of 12 and then a wildcard that picks 6 (4 judges and 2 audience vote getters). Yuck!

  • itsalleternal

    I LOVE the Wildcard round à ¢Ã¢â€š ¬’  as long as they donà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t à ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã…“Lisa Leuschnerà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬  anyoneà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬ ¦fripping Simon/Randyà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬ ¦.

    I think that was done to block her and protect the “chosen ones” as the producers knew she was likely to win the fan vote and the producers didn’t like that. That was really mean and probably was a catalyst in the format change.

  • forlife

    Interesting. Thanks for the news. :)

  • dreamr

    I LOVE the Wildcard round à ¢Ã¢â€š ¬’  as long as they donà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t à ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã…“Lisa Leuschnerà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬  anyoneà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬ ¦fripping Simon/Randyà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬ ¦.

    Amen! I was so upset about Lisa. She was outstanding and should NOT have missed out on the finals to Camile and Matt. That was just wrong. And then Randy telling her during the Wildcard results that she was good enough to win the entire competition…and then telling her that she wouldn’t be in the finals? I was seriously like WTH!? lol

    Maybe they are going to sort of combine the two formats? Like they would have randomly chosen groups, such as in Season 1-3, but instead of the top two vote-getters from each group moving on…maybe it’ll be like the bottom two vote- getters are eliminated? Hmmm…

    But yay for the wildcard round! Though I agree with Suzanne. I think the wildcard spots should also be America’s choice. If there has to be a judge’s choice, I think there should only be one.

  • tinawina

    Yeah, I don’t like the Wildcard so much for the reasons Kirsten mentioned. I like seeing them perform over a number of weeks, to see who is consistent. I also like when they get to develop a bit of musical personality before the Top 12. I wouldn’t mind the Wildcard round so much if they proceeded the normal way for the first 3 weeks, until you had a top 9, then the last week each judge is allowed to pick out of the rest and the audience gets to vote one more in. But this way, you could lose people who needed a couple of extra weeks to find real footing (like Cook or maybe Brooke) and get people who had one good performance they never match again (Ramille, A’siah, Sundance). This is not a good idea to me.

  • http://www.myspace.com/gwendolyndiane GwendolynD

    I think the wildcard spots should also be Americaà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s choice.

    Definitely. The judges’ ability to choose should end once the top 36 are selected.

  • dreamr

    Unfortunately, I think that we sometimes lost some really great people after one performance as well. I mean, I know there have been a couple of my own favorites who were the first to be eliminated during the semi-finals only to be outlasted by people who ended up having consistently weak performances.

    So I don’t see how that can be helped with either format.

    Unless, like I said in my above post, they mix it up a bit and instead of passing the top vote-getters through to the finals, they eliminate the bottom vote-getters. But it would be equally based on the actual performances rather than a guy vs. girls thing. So if there were two really weak guys or two really weak girls, they could both go home. I’ve never seen the point of the whole 6 guys/6 girls thing, to be honest. I’d much rather have 8 strong guys/4 strong girls (or vice versa) than to have a really great guy or girl miss out simply because they were the 7th good performer of their gender.

  • Kirsten

    But this way, you could lose people who needed a couple of extra weeks to find real footing (like Cook or maybe Brooke) and get people who had one good performance they never match again (Ramille, Aà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢siah, Sundance).

    I know. Let’s just take a look at DialIdol results (and pretend they are the real results) for this year and see who our finalists would have been. For the sake of argument, I’ll treat the boys and the girls as seperate groups.

    Week 1 (semi-final rounds 1 and 2):
    Top 2 vote getters girls: Ramiele Malubaby, Asia’h Epperson
    Top 2 vote getters guys: David Archuleta, Michale Johns
    Week 2 (semi-final rounds 3 and 4):
    Top 2 vote getters girls: Amanda Overmyer, Brooke White
    Top 2 vote getters guys*: Jason Yaeger, Robbie Carrico
    *David Archulta top vote getter, but he’s already in top 12

    Then we would go to the wildcard to pick the final 4.

    Here would be your top 8 from Season 6: Lakisha, Antonela, Sundance, Sanjaya, Melinda, Jordin, Chris S and Blake
    Top 8 from Season 5: Kellie, Paris, Taylor, Ace, Ayla, Mandisa, Chris D. and Will

  • tinawina

    Unfortunately, I think that we sometimes lost some really great people after one performance as well. I mean, I know there have been a couple of my own favorites who were the first to be eliminated during the semi-finals only to be outlasted by people who ended up having consistently weak performances.

    So I donà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t see how that can be helped with either format.

    I think your chances are a little better with the current format, because instead of being one of the very best to continue you just have to avoid being one of the very worst to get more time to work it out. This way, the most you get is 2 shots. But I do see what you are saying.

    So it looks like they will be dividing them into 3 groups of 12, voting 2 people in to the finals each week, then having all the losers back for one more chance where the judges decide the final 4? Does that make sense? Ugh. Maybe they will combine judges scores and audience votes for that last round, al a DWTS

    You know what might work? If they divide them into groups of 12, vote the top 2 in, have the next 3 qualify for the wildcard round, and everyone else goes home.

    Well, there is one advantage – sorta – it gives people less time to develop massive fanbases over the semis, so they may start a little more equal at the big stage. Or not. Well, I’m trying here.

  • Kirsten

    Ià ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢ve never seen the point of the whole 6 guys/6 girls thing, to be honest. Ià ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢d much rather have 8 strong guys/4 strong girls (or vice versa) than to have a really great guy or girl miss out simply because they were the 7th good performer of their gender.

    I think that is a reaction to what happened in Season 3 when there were lots of big voiced divas who made the finals. They tend to do very well in the old system because people think “Wow! that singer held a glory note forever, she must be a good singer”. And the same people think that every week so they vote in lots of the same types of singers (they split their vote in the newer syste) But, after 8 weeks of nothing but divas singing glory notes it gets dull and the tours don’t do so well. It was an attempt to introduce variety.

    Maybe they will have luck if they group singers. Here are 12 country singers, 12 divas, 12 rock stars and 12 crooners. Pick your two favs. LOL. And the third best in each genre goes home. It is tough to be fair. Remember that such popular contestants as Clay Aiken, Jennifer Hudson, George Huff and JPL (and Cookie’s girlfriend, Kim) all relied on the WildCard round.

  • dreamr

    I think your chances are a little better with the current format, because instead of being one of the very best to last you just have to avoid being one of the very worst to get more time to work it out.

    Well, I would agree if I didn’t believe that the ones I referred to earlier had not been the worst that first week. In my opinion, they were off’ed too soon simply because someone else had more exposure during the Hollywood weeks. Or because of other random reasons such as “OMG, that guy wasn’t great, but he is so cute! I just have to keep him in one more week!”

    But meh. It’s in the past. lol

  • hollygo9

    What I would prefer is that they continue to eliminate 2 instead of taking the top two vote getters to move on. Then have a wild card to put 2 back in.

    I hate the old semi format. I didn’t fall in love with Elliott Yamin until week 2….or David Cook until week 3.

    Well, there is one advantage – sorta – it gives people less time to develop massive fanbases over the semis, so they may start a little more equal at the big stage. Or not. Well, Ià ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢m trying here.

    Except that 2 weeks of Hollywood means that people will start building fanbase from there.

  • KrazeeK120

    I’m really split on the old semis vs. the new semis. I didn’t really like the old way because you could potentially end up with all of the “best” people in one group. So, you have the potential of having less liked contestants getting voted in over more liked contestants simply due to which group they fall in. It seemed wrong to me back in season 2 that the runner up had to be “wildcard-ed in.” Also, I have a hunch that our S5 third place finisher (Elliott) wouldn’t have made top 12 at all had we been using the old format. What a loss that would have been.

    Although, in the new way, why do we have to have 6 guys and 6 girls?

    Maybe they should let all 36 contestants sing and then have an episode where they announce the top 8 overall (instead of top 2 from each group). Then proceed as normal with the wild card.

    I don’t really know if there is a completely fair way to do this…but since when has AI been fair?

    This is off topic, but whatever, it’s about the article and the grammar-nazi in me is mad:
    Whoever wrote that press release for FOX needs some SERIOUS grammar lessons. “No Thursdayà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s planned”??? “There will be a couple of more 2 hour shows than in the past”??? That may sound really picky, but if you’re being PAID to write a press release for a major TV network (which I assume this person was), GET IT RIGHT!!!!!!! /rant

  • itsalleternal

    Let’s assume that the top 36 format was used for season 7. Here is probably what the field would have been (the groupings are random but all include 8 of those who were in the top 24 and 4 that were cut in the top 50 – randomly chosen):

    Group 1 (x12) – Alaina Whitaker, Amanda Overmyer, Carly Smithson, Chikezie, Colton Swon, David Cook, Joanne Borgella, Josiah Leming, Lorena Pinot, Robbie Carrico, Samantha Sidley, Syesha Mercado

    Group 2 (x12) – Adelee Mitchell, Alexandrea Lushington, Amy Davis, Brandon Green, Danny Noriega, David Archuleta, Drew Poppelreiter, Jason Yeager, Kady Malloy, Michael Johns, Nina Shaw, Ramiele Malubay

    Group 3 (x12) – Asia’h Epperson, Brooke White, Cardin McKinney, Colton Berry, David Hernandez, Garrett Haley, Jason Castro, Kristy Lee Cook, Kyle Ensley, Luke Menard, Mia Coleman, Shaun Barrowes

    I wonder how that would have changed things?

  • itsalleternal

    Maybe they should let all 36 contestants sing and then have an episode where they announce the top 8 overall (instead of top 2 from each group). Then proceed as normal with the wild card.

    I donà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t really know if there is a completely fair way to do thisà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬ ¦but since when has AI been fair?

    I like that idea actually, make it the top 10 vote-getters from the entire semi-finals that advance and everyone else is eliminated unless they advance to Wildcard Round 1.

    I’d make the wildcard a two-phase process over 3 nights:

    Wildcard Round 1 – This group should include the 11th to 16th place vote-getters, plus one additional pick from each of the judges (10 total), and they would compete on the Tuesday night of Wildcard Week. Only the winner of the round joins the finals in the 11th spot.

    Wildcard Round 2 – A REAL TWIST!!! This round is determined in a fan vote done during the semi-finals online. All the contestants eliminated in the top 50 or in Hollywood week would be thrown into an online vote pool. That way, if the judges are seen to have made a bad decision by the fans, they have a chance to respond. The top 10 voted by the fans would enter a second competition on the Wednesday night of Wildcard Week. The winner of this group joins the finals in the 12th spot.

    A Thursday results show would be necessary there.

  • IGetCranked

    I love having more Hollywood week that was always my favorite!

  • anijsch

    Except that 2 weeks of Hollywood means that people will start building fanbase from there.

    And maybe it starts even earlier.
    I only take short look at the discussion on the rumoured contestant, but some of them seem to start to have some favourites even yet, thanks to myspace,
    And what about people like Jasonà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s brother or others, who could gather fanà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s for other reasons.

  • Kirsten

    I like that idea actually, make it the top 10 vote-getters from the entire semi-finals that advance and everyone else is eliminated unless they advance to Wildcard Round 1.

    I’m not sure all voting nights are equal, so this would seem unfair to me. Unless you want 36 people to sing in one night (which would never work). If they sing on different nights, but pool the results, is it fair to the one group of singers that sang the night some special episode was on another channel or something? Maybe people aren’t ready to vote the first week, but more jump in the second and third week.

    I guess there is no fair way. I feel that the format used in Seasons 4-7 was pretty fair, but I don’t think they needed to have the girls and boys groups. Just groups. They could even mix up the groups from week to week. Sure, some better people always got the boot early, but I think it was fairer than the S1-3 way.

  • tinawina

    Except that 2 weeks of Hollywood means that people will start building fanbase from there.

    Yeah, I know, this is why I added the “or not”. LOL. I was grasping at straws trying to find a positive side to it all. Sigh.

    Well how about this: it will definitely get more dramatic this way. Much more “sudden death”. Which is probably why the producers made the switch.

  • Allison

    I think the changes will be refreshing – the show was getting stale. I avoided watching until the weeks of awful auditions was over.
    I am looking forward to something new and this top 36 may do it. I hope the 6/6 ratio is not written in stone. The Wildcard was always exciting and I’m glad it’s back in some manner.

  • primeminister

    I personally do NOT like the way the semifinals were carried out in S1-3. It allowed the one-hit-wonders to advance and greatly decreased the chances of the people who didn’t get much airtime.

    And like Kristen mentioned, just think about who the Top 12 would have been in S4-7. I personally don’t think Cook would have advanced past the first week if he had been stuck in a group with say, Michael Johns and David Archuleta (who were pimped to the max prior to semifinals).

  • oceana

    I’m glad to hear that the auditions will be shorter – I hated that part – and that the Hollywood rounds will be longer – I always wished they would show more of that.

    The Wildcard round was also fun and I’m glad it’s coming back. It’s a chance for the audience to save some people that the judges might not select.

    I’m also glad it’s 2 days a week at first and not 3. That was overkill.

    So far it sounds good to me. As for Paula’s accusations, she is pretty nutso but I also wouldn’t put it past the producers to pull that sh*t on her.

  • Caffiend

    Wait a sec…I don’t get this Top 36 invited to Hollywood thing. There are usually WAY more than 24 or even 36 invited to Hollywood Week. Hollywood is where the Top 24 are picked. I don’t get it!!!

  • bigepaz

    Hollywood week is also one of my favortie parts of the competition. I feel like that’s when AI really gets going.

    More emphasis on the aspirational singers makes me happy too. I’m so tired of the bad auditions.

    I’m a little confused about the new system, and I kinda miss the wildcard. I’m ready for anything. But overall, I’m ready for AI!

    Bring. It. On!

  • Ladybug

    I do like the changing of things around. Simply put, NO single method of choosing the eventual top group would satisfy everyone, so may as well just try this.

    I enjoyed the wild card years myself, but also liked when they changed things up a bit. I always think how Idol would not have had Clay Aiken without a wild card pick which ultimately gave the viewers the famous Clay/Ruben duel that made that year really interesting, not to mention a year of some great, great singing.

    Time for some fresh approaches (even if slightly rehashed) to how they do things.

  • http://www.myspace.com/swood1104 Sarah

    I personally do NOT like the way the semifinals were carried out in S1-3. It allowed the one-hit-wonders to advance and greatly decreased the chances of the people who didnà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t get much airtime.

    Same here. Jasmine Trias and John Stevens, anyone? Are the producers’ memories really that short?

    The wildcard round is not a bad re-addition to the format, but I really don’t like the idea of people advancing straight to the top 12 on the basis of one performance.

    I AM glad that the Hollywood rounds are going to be longer. That’s one of my favorite parts of the competition.

  • http://myspace.com/girlgeek mj

    Wait a sec…I don’t get this Top 36 invited to Hollywood thing.

    The Top 50 are going to be whittled down to the Top 36 instead of a Top 24. They do this in “Hollywood” as well. Actually, it’s Pasadena, and it happens in January.

    Technically there are 2 “Hollywood Rounds” The one in November that has about 200 people, and then again in January, when the 50 are whittled down to the contestants who will compete live on the show.

  • thedingoateyobaby

    The idea that Clay Aiken would not have made it to Hollywood without the wild card round in which he kicked ass with Elton’s “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On me” is reason enough for me to love that part of the show.

    No way Reuben won that contest but it all worked out in the end. “Not winning” may have been one of the best things to happen to him.

    So, I love the Wild card round and this will be the first year since 2005/06 that I have been really interested and somewhat excited about idol.

  • Giggy

    MJ…just want to let you know that I dropped by here because there is a story about the upcoming changes to AI on Yahoo. I clicked on the story and your blog is listed as the source of the story! Congratulations. :)

    The story was written by Access Hollywood and is in the OMG section of Yahoo, for anyone interested.

    http://omg.yahoo.com/news/changes-coming-to-american-idols-season-8/16537?nc

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