New FOX Reality Chief Shares Thoughts on American Idol

The Hollywood Reporter spoke with the new head of FOX alternative programming, Simon Andreae. He took the place of long term reality chief, Mike Darnell. The interview is ahead of the launch of the network’s ambitious new reality show, Utopia, but the executive had a few thought to share about the struggling American Idol franchise.

A lot of observers aren’t clear on your role with American Idol. What is your involvement?

David Hill stepped up to supervise [after Darnell left]. It happened that he did a good job — he refreshed the set; he got a much better and effective set of judges — but there was a bit left to do. For whatever reason, we ended up with a top 20 [group of contestants] that was less than stellar. David wanted the opportunity to continue the turnaround, so he asked and was offered Idol [season] 14. We touch base every now and then, and he tells me what he’s doing, but he doesn’t report to me. After this season, I don’t know. We’ll take a look at it.

Did Andreas keep the same team in place, despite the failures of Season 13, because he’s given up on Idol? Touching base with “every now and then” sounds like he’s written it off. It’s hard to tell if he’s talking about Hill, or the show when he says “We’ll take a look at it” after this season. In either case, it’s not a very encouraging sign.

The perception is that Idol is a sinking ship. Why keep it on the air?

I think it’s the original and still the best. It’s the only one of the singing shows that consistently makes megastars — I think that is its place on the schedule. It’s arguable that singing shows have been a larger slice of the pie than perhaps the audience has an appetite for, but I don’t think they’ll go away.

I thought Idol had at least two seasons left in it, but now, I think if the ratings sink lower for season 14, there will be no season 15. What do you think? By the way, Andreas used to develop shows for Discovery. He’s responsible for Naked and Afraid. He says, “Your welcome!

  • Mateja Praznik

    It’s the only one of the singing shows that consistently makes megastars — I think that is its place on the schedule.

    The last time American Idol produced a megastar was almost a decade ago. Carrie Underwood. I wouldn’t call that consistency.

  • tripp_ncwy

    Once again, it’s the contestants fault. I do agree somewhat but the entire production and judges antics were not good tv.

  • Eilonwy_has_an_emu

    I was going to give them Daughtry, since he was huge for two albums. But that still adds one (1) more season and gets us only to 2006. “Consistently” should mean at least one really successful second album in the subsequent eight years.

  • Amy Beth

    CYA. If the show tanks, he can blame it on David Hill. If it exceeds expectations, he can point to his brilliant management decision.

  • Eilonwy_has_an_emu

    Call Truly Nolen! Once again in S13, unworthy contestants swarmed the show, and the producers were helpless to cast singers who were more telegenic. There must be some kind of gas they could use on the set to eliminate this problem.

    If the show staggers through S15, it’ll be because it costs more to replace it than to just let it sink slowly rapidly.

  • Incipit

    “I thought Idol had at least two seasons left in it, but now, I think if the ratings sink lower for season 14, there will be no season 15.”

    Yeah, I kinda thought the same thing, the judges panel looked OK, even though they kept Randy. But that ought to have been fair warning. They kept Randy – for no good reason – but I was still hopeful – until the Idol Producers started playing Reindeer Games with the auditioners, and picked out that wonky cast for Season 13 – that was the end of that thought. The tatterdemalion Backing Track Tour was another signal.

    Uncle Per and FOX made just about every wrong choice in the book – and now there will be fewer episodes, sort of a signal for the End Game, IMO. Season 14 making any kind of come-back would be quite a story – but I don’t expect it will happen. None of them seems to learn from their mistakes, they are more interested in finding a scapegoat. Like the cast that overpowered the producers and forced themselves onto Season 13 – SMH – What could the poor, helpless producers do? (Rhetorical Question)

    JMO.

  • Larc

    Unless there are substantial changes for S14, I’m guessing it will be the last. If Andreae isn’t putting Idol on his plate and is instead leaving it in the hands of the person who oversaw S13, it seems to say he considers other ventures more worthy of his attention. Idol definitely isn’t on a front burner in his mind, IMO. It wouldn’t be surprising if the decision has already been made.

  • gclay

    yeah but the phrase “megastar” is very subjective. Katharine McPhee has a show on CBS, Adam Lambert is selling out stadiums with Queen those (to some) are megastars

  • girlygirl

    well then take out the word “consistently” and it’s still true. It’s the only one of the US singing competitions that has ever produced any megastars. Neither The Voice nor XFUSA has done that.

    I think this will be AI’s last season. To be honest, it should be the last season for any of the singing competition shows on US network tv– the ratings have shown that people don’t care about these shows any more.

  • H.A.

    If Idol can hang on until S15 than I say end it than. 15 seasons sounds like a good number to end the show with. Give it a big send off with all the bells and whistles. Instead of the useless fillers focus on all the past contestants who helped make the show the success it was. Remind the public why it lasted 15yrs. Also don’t just focus on the idols that are megastars or stars. There are many Idols like Constantine, Taylor Hicks, Katherine Phee, Mandissa etc.. who are finding success. If things get really, really bad in S14 than please end it. Go out with some dignity.

  • clarkeinak

    If there wasn’t a good top 20, wouldn’t that be the judges fault, since they’re pretty much in charge of who goes thru up to that point? How much of that is on Hill as opposed to Harry, JLo and Keith? AI has given people careers that my might not have had without the show, megastars or not.
    The talent on The Voice is much better, but that show focuses more on the judges and boosts their careers…no megastar has come out of it to this point.
    It seems like there needs to be some sort of happy medium. Maybe have the judges switch shows for a season and see what happens? LOL

  • realdeal

    Funny how they lay all the blame on the singers. Not on Harry for acting stupid or being skeevy with young girls. Not on J-Low for being a camera hog. Not on Keith for being dull. Not on Randy for being worthless. Not on the producers for being cruel. Not on bandzilla for screwing up.

  • lkingcorn

    I take exception to to the statement nt that Carrie Underwood is the only superstar out of Idol. Talk about being in the right place at the right time in Country, Carrie would have been a troop not to hit it big st the time. She fortunately has the goods to keep on top. But there are a great many xIdols who have name recognition in the business and others who are gaining ground. They come with the stigma of xIdols, but are still forging ahead. I think the judges/producers did a bad job on S12 and s13 trying to find a specific talent. Did not work and hurt the show.

  • EmmaCT

    What I want out of AI are 12 good singers that I can become invested in during the competition, week after week. It’s as close to the old “variety” show as we have today… and if I am invested, I come back week after week to see what they will do, what they’ve learned. After the show is finished? I honestly don’t think it matters. If any contestant achieves “superstardom,” great – what I am invested in is the 4 months of the show, the journey. Many previous season contestants are having good careers that pay the bills, and they get continual work – but they are not “charting” singers or newsmakers. You watch AI for the journey; we all have our favorites that we follow and root for afterward, and especially thanks to social media, we can find them. If I come away from a season really liking even one contestant enough to keep tabs on them afterward, then the show has done what it was designed to do. They don’t have to be megastars.

  • Liteasy

    Katherine McPhee is more known for her scandalous affair than a TV program.

    Queen would be selling out without Adam – he’s not the reason for the all the solds – IMO!

  • Corrine43180

    Queen toured with Paul Rogers in the US and did horribly in sales, so the idea that they can throw any lead singer in there is seriously flawed. Katherine McPhee is known for TV. She’s got another tv series this season that will get some press. I hear about Katherine FAR more than the winner of her season.

  • sdmama

    I certainly would not have gone to Queen concert without Adam, (I skipped Paul Roger version) and have no desire to attend Queen Extravaganza, even though I think Mark Martel sounds just like Freddie and he is wonderful. If I wanted to listen to Freddie, I have records that I can play. For me to fork out that kind of money, it has to offer something new/extra/special. So, yeah, no Adam, no Queen live concert of this magnitude. Brian and Roger said so, and I concur.

  • lovetheusa1776

    The three concerts I’ve been to were jammed with AL fans – Queen wouldn’t be selling out without the excitement of a great new singer.

  • iluvai

    I’m happy for them. But they aren’t mega stars.

  • iluvai

    Every wonderful thing comes to an end. AI has a great legacy. Good luck to all of the participants. Some of them did really well.

  • iluvai

    There are so many talents that came from AI. Good luck to them all! Wow, all the success that came Ryan Seacrest’s way. He deserves it.

  • Dakota

    Might have been the original but hasn’t been the best for a long time. Honestly, when I read the headline, my first thought was “that show isn’t even on air anymore. ‘ Thats how irrelevant it is today. It may not produce a star, but The Voice is entertaining and the rotating coach panels helps keep it fresh

  • Dakota

    They need one super amazing contestant who will be so spectacular that he/she will create viral moments that would be on youtube and talked about by everyone the next day. A unique voice & performer that would give Idol buzz and make people want to watch and see what they do next. Get a singing nun or a transsexual with a Patti Labelle voice. Another handful of inexperienced high schoolers combined with some karaoke and coffee house singers ain’t gonna stand out. In addition to the great coach chemistry on NBC, they also always have several very experienced singers who people enjoy watching. In this internet age, its rare to find some random chick on a farm who only sings in the sjower
    Plus Idol ain’tcool. Anymore so tthat likely affects who auditions. You’re getting a lot of mediocre kids who’ve watched the show since they were young

  • Dakota

    You guys fail to realize the show is about ratings, not someone with a hit recording career. While the voice would love that, it’s not necessary.

  • Dakota

    Start booking the alumni now for a series finale in may2016

  • Karen C

    They need one super amazing contestant who will be so spectacular that he/she will create viral moments that would be on youtube and talked about by everyone the next day. A unique voice & performer that would give Idol buzz and make people want to watch and see what they do next.

    This is what is what has been missing from the show for several years, and I would say the last time it happened to any extent was with Adam Lambert. I think they aren’t picking contestants like that anymore. I think they don’t want anyone to stick out too soon, but then no one sticks out at all.

  • Karen C

    If it’s just about ratings, it wouldn’t be pointed out that there have been megastars from Idol and not from the others. That leads to a different image for the show, that some have been taken seriously by the music industry.

  • Karen C

    I don’t think it’s just the judges, it is also the producers that pick the contestants before the judges even see them.

  • Corrine43180

    The problem is that the kind of contestant you describe might not make it very far in the voting with the idol demographic. Well, maybe the singing nun.

  • fuzzywuzzy

    It sounds like Andreas has little interest in Idol and is dismissing the idea of reviving it. Unless there’s a huge turnaround this season (which I doubt if the same people are in charge), I think that this upcoming season will be Idol’s last.

  • Eric Ascher

    I think the show deserves a season 15 solely because that would be an awesome number to end with.

  • Sassycatz

    They’re the people who picked the contestants *and* the lists of songs they can perform as well as how the band will interact with them. It’s not like the contestants choose whether to move to the next level and the audience — especially lately — doesn’t factor into things until much later. So, whose fault is it that they haven’t found compelling contestants? The way he worded it, it’s like they have no control over it at all.

  • Incipit

    Yeah, a quarter of a century – and in actual years – not this double season thing that The Voice does. That would be closure, of a sort. If anyone can keep the Producers from screwing the show totally into the ground before it happens! Andreas doesn’t seem to give a care.

  • Liteasy

    They had somebody like that (Taylor Hicks), and then they threw him into the dust by not supporting him. They tried to make him into a pop star, and he had nothing to do with it.

  • Eilonwy_has_an_emu

    Yeah, a quarter of a century – and in actual years – not this double season thing that The Voice does. That would be closure, of a sort.

    Not to go all numbers-nerd on you, but isn’t a quarter of a century 25 years, not 15?

    No way I’m hangin’ on through Idol S25.

  • Incipit

    Yeah, my bad – it’s that Numbernerd thing. *snerk* @ Myself.

    10 extra years on top of the hoped for 15 – never gonna happen!

  • Mateja Praznik

    Taylor Hicks never had any potential as a contemporary major label recording artist. Someone like him should have never been cast on the show.

  • girlygirl

    who calls Carrie the only superstar? Kelly is obviously recognized as a superstar.

  • Liteasy

    He had no intention of being a contemporary artist. If it wasn’t for him, Season 5 would have been a dud – he was the one the majority of people tuned in to see what he was doing next. Like him or not, he brought in the viewers. It’s been downhill ever since.

  • Mateja Praznik

    He was a total trainwreck.

    Oh and Idol winners get major label recording contracts, so the winners should be aspiring contemporary artists. You can’t expect from TPTB (show, label, management) to be 100% behind a total dud like Hicks.

  • girlygirl

    Adam created those kind of moments on S8, but despite his great success fronting for Queen and solid sales, he has still had trouble establishing himself as a solo superstar in the US.

    Idol is an old show, and TBH, even at its peak it was never consider “cool”. That’s one reason why the contestants have had trouble establishing themselves as recording artists — they are looked as products of reality tv rather than actual artists. It’s not fair, because they are every bit the legit musician as anyone else, but that’s the perception a lot of people have of people who come off AI, The Voice, XF. It’s a hard thing to overcome, unless you have a lot of commercial and/or critical success right off the bat.

    Honestly, it makes no sense to keep AI on the air past next season. The ratings are crap and even the record label associated with the show doesn’t want to touch these contestants with a 10-foot pole (I saw on twitter this morning that Interscope and 19 officially both passed on Jena). Let the show go out with some kind of dignity rather than dragging this sad mess out another couple of years.

  • Corrine43180

    Taylor shot himself in the foot too, didn’t he?? Didn’t he refuse to work in his album until the tour was over despite label and management wishes?? Taylor was a good tv contestant, just not great after the show. Since ratings were the highest ever in his season, you would think his album would have sold more but after the show, nobody cared, instead they cared about Daughtry who was current and fit into the music mark. His first album was all him, he was creatively stubborn so to say they tried to make him a pop star isnt accurate. He said that album was him, problem is, the public didn’t care.

  • Marko

    It looks better in Roman numerals: Idol XXV.

  • girlygirl

    It’s funny, though. Taylor has been far more successful than most of the Idol contestants who had potential as a contemporary major label recording artist.

  • bridgette12

    Kat is a show killer, she couldn’t act to save her life.

  • Corrine43180

    Like who and in what capacity?? Of winners, his sales are far less than other winners up until season 8 and even with album sales being so low now compared to when he released him album, season 10 and season 11 winners outsold him. Yes, he had a residency in Vegas that ended last year, but maybe I missed other things he’s done that are that much more successful than others from the show, with the exception of the last two seasons.

  • girlygirl

    With no radio play, he sold 800K of his debut album. He toured in “Grease”. He has had a Vegas residency for 2 years. He is always listed in the Forbes list of the Top Earning Idols. By releasing his albums on his own, he has pocketed more money than most of the Idols who are on major labels.

  • Amy Beth

    American Idol’s producers made a deliberate decision to change the name of the show from “Pop Idol” which it was called in the UK. In doing so, they opened the show up to all kinds of music that the US viewing audience might embrace. If they weren’t prepared for non-Top 40 contestants doing well, that’s on them.

  • MichaelG

    Not sure if Kat’s Success is of mega-star status… more like mega-flop. I’m waiting for her latest project to fizzle. She holds the record for ‘most second chances given to a middling talent’.

  • YankeeFan08

    Artists on major labels might not make a lot of money on their albums, but Idols releasing independently don’t make much, if anything, either … especially if no one is buying them. And we’ve seen that recently with a few of them.

  • sdmama

    Even if we concede that Adam’s second album is not a platinum, he did help the TV show and that was exiting season. Producing a long lasting recording artist and having a great TV show are two separate things. And for the latter, we need Adam or singing num or whatever.

  • Corrine43180

    Yes, I understand that, I’m not stupid. We have no idea of how many indie albums he has sold, do we? Yes, he managed to sell 704k (not 800k) of his first album at a time when album sales were much better, so that’s good. But every winner before him and two winners after him sold more albums/singles. I guess you’re right, compared to later winners (with the exception of Phillip and Scotty, his sales were more successful. I’m using sales because you specifically stated recording artist.

  • Incipit

    “For whatever reason, we ended up with a top 20 [group of contestants] that was less than stellar.”

    Ya know – this is so weaselish, it’s one of the biggest parts of the problem, and this dude dismisses it like the contestant selection was an afterthought, carried out by an invisible force…and these dudes had no power.

    WTF is “For whatever reason”! Figure out where you screwed it all up – and STOP. doing. that. If you don’t even know the reason – you buncha dipsticks will do it again! And once you’ve said you don’t even know where TPTB went off the point – nothing else that is said about the season makes any difference at all. So, sit down. IMO.

  • http://mjsbigblog.staging.wpengine.com/ mjsbigblog

    Reminder: Please stay on topic, which is American Idol 14. Will be deleting any and all rehash discussion.

  • KrisAllenLists

    I agree, and a creative producer could really turn that last season into an homage to the years it was must-see TV.

  • Amy Beth

    “Mistakes were made”

    It’s the classic use of the passive voice to distance yourself from what happened. Perfected by politicians trying to evade responsibility.

  • ptslittlecomment

    I cannot image why any of the former contestants who managed to have a successful career of of sort would want to participate in another round of an elimination contest. It would not be good for the career to be voted off quickly or have scads of viewers obviously prefer someone else over you. Can you imagine the press that would follow you in even casual mentions afterwards “Clarkson won by a landslide in the first season of AI but came in a pale second as Underwood swept Season 16.” ;). ( That was just an example folks, not picking favorites)
    No one but also rans and has been would have any reason IMHO to appear in a competition show., and that sounds more like a season of The Voice than AI.
    If it is a non competition show, aluminum participants could probably accomplish the retrospective goal in one Night , not one season.

  • Karen C

    It’s to their credit that most of the contestants have managed to carve out some sort of career in the music/entertainment industry and have put out some really good music (even if most of it has been overlooked by radio and the buying public). But even at its peak it wasn’t churning out stars left and right.

    I think this is the true value of these shows, that some have had a career in music, some even several years after being on the show. I do think it has been good for the show that there have been superstars from it, but that wasn’t to happen to everyone. I think to emphasize that it hasn’t had a megastar in years, and that they were going to try to create another one actually hurt the show more the past couple of years than helped. It would have been better to emphasize the more moderate success that many have had from the show, rather than the megasuccess of a few that possibly would be difficult to recreate.

  • Pat H

    I think what he says about consistently creating stars is true. Someone used having a platinum 2nd album as a criteria, but I disagree! Compare every season of Idol to every season to The Voice & the difference is obvious. The show, basically, is responsible for that first albums success. So, the onst did NOT produce a star coming off the show, would be 9, 12, & 13 !

  • Karrington

    I agree. He should have left it at stars and that would have covered quite a few and not just the obvious Carrie and Kelly. When I think of “mega” I see stars like Beyoncé, Rihanna, Eminem, Timberlake, Gaga and dare I say Bieber. People who are just huge and household names all around the world. But Idol has actually done pretty darn well compared to the other shows. And even if some have dropped off, they had the spotlight for a minute, unlike most of the other contestants from other shows.

  • Sp_cebux

    I think Adam should not have signed with Queen.. a old, getting older band popular only with Baby Boomers and a portion of Gen-Xers. He would have done much better had he gone out on his own, rather than sign with Queen.

  • Sp_cebux

    There’s one other aspect to all this – prior to season 9, there did not seem to be a predictable formula for getting through Hollywood week.

    As season 9~13 progressed, it became abundantly apparent to me, the producers of the show WERE indeed picking the crop, swaying opinion, and so on, to court a select few singers to the final weeks of the show. I.e., the audience’s vote no longer mattered. Ratings (driven by drama conceived at the top) drove the show for a number of years.

    After Adam blew away the competition in Season 8, the producers (I think) felt they had to reign in the contestants to make it a ‘fairer’ show to all. But in doing so, they curried favor to this genre or that; and, in-the-end, killed their cash-cow show.

    The drama for Season 13 was all about the Rocker as the focal point, with side drama shows of the Indie Girl, the misfit musician from New Hampshire, the hard-up honky-tonk southern country girl, and poor parent-less teen-boy from Florida. You could NOT get that kind of mix as the top 5 from the top 20 they gave us if America tried a coordinated vote from week 1.

    The filming—the shots of the contestants during the shows—contained some of the most awkward directorship I’ve ever seen in a live show. But, again, it was all set to support certain contestants over others. I ran out of fingers & toes trying to count how many times the director cut from close-up of Sam’s face to girls with mouths agape in awe of his stardom during his singing. (They NEVER did that with any of the other contestants.) Sam was portrayed as the girl’s favorite… almost as if they were trying to tell teen and pre-teen girls whom they ought to vote for. (Why? Not to push Sam; no, no, no. But to gauge show ratings & effectiveness among that group of impressionable viewers.)

    How / Why the produces of A.I. continue to push the Vote aspect of the show so much boils down to marketing—on a fairly massive scale. Remember, Ford, Coke, AT&T are the show’s main sponsors. A.I.’s job is to continue to engage as large a chunk of viewers as possible for the Target Market. Ford, e.g., is not interested in selling to pre-teens, per se, but they want to impress upon those teens & pre-teens that when they get out of high-school.. its time to saddle up in a Ford.

    The show’s no longer about finding the next Idol. A certain ideal mix, however, of drama is what the producers are now using to keep audiences entwined. The Vote is just there to validate whether the show is reaching its intended audience or not. Contestants will come & go based on the producers’ final whims.