TV Week Interview with Mike Darnell: “Thereà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s a big surprise coming when we get to the top 12”

In an exclusive interview with TV Week, Mike Darnell, president of alternative entertainment for FOX revealed a couple more surprises in store for Idol viewers this season:

  • “Thereà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s a big surprise coming when we get to the top 12, but I canà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t reveal it right now,” says Darnell. He says the contestants will be surprised, too.
  • The kids are going to live in a house this season. (They lived in a mansion seasons 1-3.)   “Plus weà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢ll be doing more behind-the-scenes stuff with the kids, and theyà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢re going to live in a house, so if anythingà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬’if sparks fly there, weà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢ll show some of that. Weà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢re hoping to get more of who they areà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬’more of the reality version, to be honest with you. It makes the show tick,” says Darnell
  • Kelly Clarkson will appear on the show in the next couple of weeks.
  • Darnell says musicians will have to be “ridiculously big” in order to be considered as mentors for the show.

It appears that the producers are bringing more reality elements to the show.   Instead of being able to retreat back to private apartments when their long day is done, the cameras will be following the contestants back to a house, hoping to capture some shenanigans, manufactured or not.

I’m not sure I’m likin’ that. Personally, I think there’s enough inherent drama in the kids struggling to make it in the competition from week to week. The producers should spend more time highlighting the contestants themselves, rather than fake drama.   And like most reality shows, most of it will be manufactured for the cameras. Bleah.

In the meantime, Darnell is pretty happy with the way things are going so far

Well, weà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢ve done everything we can. Of course we added a fourth judge and weà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢re hoping that that changes the dynamic a bit, because what weà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢ve noticed with her is that sheà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s very good. Sheà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s aggressive, she will fight with Simon, sheà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢ll bond with Paula, sheà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢ll fight with Paula, and what ità ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s doing is ità ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s taking the group dynamic and changing it. And I think the audience is ready for that. They donà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t say the same things over and over again, because sheà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s inserted a different voice and that just by itself has made it moreà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬’sort of new, and it really is working so far.

Darnell says something I actually agree with.   The rest of it? Bah.

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  • RV65

    So this will be like Big Brother plus the singing?….too “corny”….not liking too much drama…so what is this show really all about…the talent for singing or being controversial….I think this show is showing signs of desperation…im losing interest…JMHO

  • k4dc

    Maybe all top 12 will get to go on tour, not just the top 10? I never did understand why they make such a big deal of making it to the top 12 when it’s making it to the top 10 that REALLY matters.

  • gingerly

    We’ll see what happens, how they protray it. If it’s all manufactured drama, I won’t be liking it.

  • Jul

    Aw man.. I really wanted S7 to live in a house.. that would have provided some epic behind the scenes moments! This should be interesting tho, and very Big Brother like. Top 12 on tour might be good, but sometimes in the past seasons I’ve felt like I haven’t really been that into the 11th and 12th place people. I did feel bad for David Hernandez and I really wanted him on. Amanda, however, I was quite glad she finished 11th LOL.

  • Bobbi

    I was pleasantly surprised by the change in tone of the first two audition shows. Although they said they were going to do it, I really didn’t think they’d accomplish it. So, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt until I see what they’re going to do. The focus really needs to concentrate on the kids and the music. If they mess with that, they will see their ratings plummet, imo. They seem to have a lot larger fanbase for the show than most reality shows and they have a much finer line to walk. I don’t think this fanbase would respond well to a lot of the more common reality elements. That was one of the main thrusts of the ABC show that was patterned on Idol and it lasted for two shows!

  • jtgraffix

    love how darnell doesn’t even mention randy in his quote. can someone just fire him and let him take care of his ABDC show? lots of behind the scenes after the show seems like The One now. didn’t they have that original format? it’s like kara brought that idea with her when she started…haha! top 12 tour sounds about right for a big surprise.

  • sumidol

    Oh I am looking forward to the changes, I hope they will be good ones. This is my favorite show and Mj’s my favorite blog so I hope this is all for the good. I guess I will reserve judgement until I see how it all plays out. I too would have loved to see more of my “boys” behind the scenes last year!!! The Davids, Jason and Mj – that would have been fun to watch I bet.

  • mj

    I don’t think this fanbase would respond well to a lot of the more common reality elements.

    I agree. Me for instance. I absolutely HATE reality shows. Hate them. First of all, they aren’t very real. Don’t watch Survivor, don’t watch Big Brother. The drama on those shows is so contrived. If they really just followed people with cameras, it would be boring as hell. On the other hand, contrived drama is just lame.

    I disagree with Darnell, kids getting up in front of millions of people to sing–in itself–is hella dramatic. These kids have something real at stake–the rest of their lives in showbusiness.

  • janerazor

    Behind the scenes like Real World? No thanks. I don’t need to see drunk idiots jumping into a hot tub naked or making out behind tall house plants. I watch this show with my kids!

    Behind the scenes like Project Runway or Dancing with the Stars? That could work. It would be nice to see song selection discussions, interacting with the musicians, working on vocals…heck, even shopping for next week’s wardrobe.

    I think somehow that we, the viewers, largely get that these are real people with real dreams, and we’d largely like to see them treated with the respect inherent in that. And perhaps TPTB cannot see them as real people, but rather as a means to get advertising revenue, and so the concept of highlighting their struggles as human beings doesn’t compute. We’ll see.

    Oh, and big twist at top-12? I’m not holding my breath that it will be earth-shattering, but you never know.

  • sumidol

    I have never watched Survivor or Big Brother either, just my AI and SYTUCD, so I truly hope this show is not made to create big ugly scenes between the contestants. What I personally hope for is just more of the contestants and who they are but not in a set up way. Everyone has said that in the past on here, show us more of the contestants not the judges please and I hope it is handled in a much classier way than the down and dirty reality tv shows, ya know? For instance it was always fun to catch a glimpse of Mj and Cook being goofy, things like that.

  • cheese

    I’m with MJ – I really hate reality shows. I don’t want to see the kids at home – imo, that’s just going to make more people feel like they “know” their favorites and fuel the crazy. I would like to see more footage of the kids in rehearsals, choosing songs, working on their songs with mentors/coaches etc. I’m sure there’s plenty of drama in that, and it would be interesting to see how the whole thing comes together between Wednesday and Tuesday. I couldn’t care less about whose room is the messiest and who snores and I fear that’s the kind of “insight” we’ll get.

  • MrsTrep

    I could handle some of the song selection/voice coaching/wardrobe selection ‘behind the scenes’ stuff, but I’d rather have a longer song than some behind the scenes ‘drama’ stuff. I think it’s a grueling enough process and it’s supposed to be about the voice (ha!)and not who said what to who while they went to bla bla bla. That is NOT why I watch the show. There’s enough pressure to do well etc without having camera’s on you pretty much 24/7. The fans putting the kids under the microscope enough without TPTB doing it 24/7 as well.

  • FolkFan

    I was actually hoping that this season, they would give the kids more breathing room, so that they were less tired by Top 5 and beyond. Instead, they’re giving them less breathing room. Sigh.

  • terps

    Kelly as a mentor?!?!?! I’m glad to see her come home

  • Dr. Tracey

    Chances are there won’t be much ‘reality’ stuff?
    They already have to rush through the judges critiques some nights and now there’s a 4th judge to give time to. Apart from that ridiculous Q and A segment and the awful group numbers what else can they cut?

  • tinawina

    Oh man. Not looking good. Please, no Hollywood Week Group Sing type drama all season long. That has nothing to do with their voices. Selecting songs and rehearsing, though, that could be interesting. The whole drama thing has Simon written all over it.

  • MrsTrep

    Eh, if Kelly’s appearing on the show in the next couple of weeks I wouldn’t think it’d be mentoring…. seems like early round stuff… elimination night performance sounds like what it would be to me, unless she’s top 12 week.

  • KrazeeK120

    I’m pretty excited about the “reality” element of the show. Hopefully it will allow us to get to know the contestants better. The past couple of seasons I haven’t felt like they’ve put enough focus on the contestants. Plus, reality shows are pretty much all I watch (other than the Office), so I think it’s safe to say I’m a reality show freak. After last season, I was ready to be done with Idol, but I’m liking what I’m hearing so far. Hopefully I’ll like the changes.

  • brewster

    Sounds like this season is going to be a combination Big Brother, The Real World, and Don’t Forget the Lyrics. AI, over the years, has become less and less a singing competition and more of a TV spectacle. Do we really want to see the “drama” of strangers living together? What might be more interesting is a glimpse of the behind the scenes creative process.

  • geekygirl

    Hmmm wonder if Simon Cowell has something to do with this. It’s what they do on the Xfactor, have a separate show from the “Xfactor house” It is pretty dire stuff, always a bitch fight involved, and lots of stupid clips taken out of context. Don’t they know that even in aquariums they have a place for dolphins to retreat to because they become highly stressed always being on display? (how they determine that I don’t know but whatever)

    Contestants need their private time too. I loathe reality shows too, never watch them, don’t turn this into a circus Simon just because it gets good ratings in the UK. Give us a clip now and then but keep it a singing competition!

  • brie200

    I wanted more BTS last season, but not of the manufactured variety. I have to agree with some that I would have like to see stuff having to do with song selection or the BTS type stuff you would see on DWTS or something like that. What I don’t want is Big Brother type fighting and ridiculous drama for drama’s sake. If that is what they go for this season then I’m glad the S7 Idols missed out on that particular fan.

  • Paula

    To me it sound like Kelly will be performing — not being a mentor.

  • CSFan

    How will AI talk up this season as “the closest season evah” and how will fans ‘ship certain pairs of contestants if everybody knows that a bunch of them aren’t nice people and really hate each other?? LOL

  • loosegoose

    Ohhhh, bad news, this “reality at the Big House” talk. I haven’t watched a full season since 5, but was starting in fresh this year and was happy to find I enjoyed the first two audition shows. But if “Reality” is the direction it’s heading, I’ll stop now. I have NO interest in that kind of manufactured garbage. Not only is it cheap and shallow, it goes even further in the direction of exploiting the contestants rather than offering them a chance for real achievement. Bad news all the way around.

    Well, if that’s where the producers are headed, I’ll regain dozens of hours in which to do (or watch) something interesting. AI will no longer qualify.

  • sumidol

    Well I am not counting anything out until I see how it is done thats for sure. I just hope it is done in good taste. I think TPTB saw all the requests on here last year for more Idol time and less judges crap and q and a sessions, that they are giving us what we wanted maybe, lets just hope it is a good thing and not bad. I have watched this thing since day one and hope they dont wreck it thats for sure

  • GwendolynD

    Well, weà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢ve done everything we can. Of course we added a fourth judge and weà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢re hoping that that changes the dynamic a bit, because what weà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢ve noticed with her is that sheà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s very good. Sheà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s aggressive, she will fight with Simon, sheà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢ll bond with Paula, sheà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢ll fight with Paula, and what ità ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s doing is ità ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s taking the group dynamic and changing it. And I think the audience is ready for that. They donà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t say the same things over and over again, because sheà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s inserted a different voice and that just by itself has made it moreà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬’sort of new, and it really is working so far.

    Interesting how there’s no mention of Randy in this paragraph.

    I think he’s on his way out.

  • meme

    Tell me again, I thought this show was about music? Stay away from the Idol House please. These kids are subject to so much. Let them have at least a few personal hours that a camera isn’t following them. Wasn’t it KLC and her BF that had to sneak in some private time in a sauna last year?

  • mandalay

    I second what cheese said. And I’ve never seen an episode of Survivor or any other reality shows – blech.

  • bean99

    I don’t want to see manufactured drama but do think some behind the scenes would be interesting. I think something like that would have helped Michael because his personality didn’t come out too much during the season. Having said that I think they’re probably hoping for some house drama like on Rockstar Supernova.

  • Terrie

    Regarding other competitive reality shows, I watched both seasons of Rockstar and every season of Top Chef, but the BTS drama always detracts from the actual talent, which should be nurtured. AI is not good at nurturing talent and last season was the worst, with Nigel sending the kids out to kiss dolphins, promote British events, ad nauseam — what Jason Castro described as “a lot more non-music stuff than I thought.”

    I am not aware of any shortage of BTS photos or videos at the AI site, although I’m sure many fans crave an endless stream. The last thing contestants need is more show manipulation encroaching on their private time — and the last thing I want is a weekly reminder about how Lil Rounds misses her young children or how Danny Gokey is dealing with a widower’s heartbreak, although I am deeply sympathetic to both of them at this early stage. However, I fear the potential for milking backstories to influence voting will prove irresistible to the AI crew.

    See MJ’s post about Nadia Turner to understand how unprepared someone so seemingly confident was for the high stress, extremely public fish bowl that is AI.

  • IdolFanatic

    I feel sorry for this next crop of contestants already. This is not what they signed up for. If I’m going to have a mental breakdown after the show, dammit, I don’t want the cameras following me home hoping to catch it for airing on the next show. I think it will heavily skew the voting in a very negative way. We will no longer be voting on performances anymore. Brooke White should consider herself very lucky to not be competing this season. It was hard enough watching her start to melt down on the stage.

  • americanidolfan102

    I agree with some of the posts above
    I think TPTD showing behind the scenes drama the shows ratings will drop
    but if the producers show song selection and the contestants practicing the ratings may even go up and the show would seem more real.
    The show should also focus more on the music and not so much about promotion
    I think the contestants should be able to get newer music cleared as well
    and that they should make some “no-theme nights”
    and when they do have themes they should be good ones LOL

  • IdolFanatic

    I think the contestants should be able to get newer music cleared as well
    and that they should make some à ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã…“no-theme nightsà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬ 
    and when they do have themes they should be good one

    Totally agree! Song clearance was a nightmare for some contestants last year from some things I have heard.

  • cookcricket

    RE: Kara

    Sheà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s aggressive, she will fight with Simon, sheà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢ll bond with Paula, sheà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢ll fight with Paula, and what ità ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s doing is ità ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s taking the group dynamic and changing it.

    So how is the change affecting: “So Simon what do you think…” Randy?

    In addition this just made me think of something maybe a little OT. Has there ever been only one judge say yes in the auditions? And if so, has it ever been Simon?

  • kozisedso

    Well this just sounds ominous. If the show goes in the “fake drama ala Survivor etc. ” direction, I’ll be tuning out, as it seems many other music fans will be. Maybe MJ could send a copy of the comments to this post to Mike Darnell.

  • limecoke

    The first (and best) season of Nashville Star included some behind the scenes stuff back at the house. It was handled well, was minimal and added a lot to the show. If AI does it that way, it’ll be ok. If it’s too Big Brotherish, it’s going to be bad. We’ll see.

  • Lux

    If they do it like Project Runway it can actually work.

  • Preston

    It seems that many people are making a mountain out of a molehill with this. Of COURSE it’s not going to become the next Big Brother/Real World… Idol is still Idol at heart– if anything, I’m expecting some bonding scenes/small tiffs (maybe 5-10 minutes total) on results shows, and that’s it. Nothing major. Just more insight into who these kids are, and I really like that.

    As for those comparing these changes to Survivor– I’m thinking you haven’t seen the show lately. I’m a HUGE fan, and I have no idea where these comments about “manufactured/contrived drama” are coming from. They may be on Real World, or Big Brother, or whatever, but I haven’t seen them on Survivor, that’s for sure.

    Anyway, as for this surprising twist– maybe in the wildcard round, America may get to vote after all and produce their own finalist pick? So we have a top 13, and two go home the first week of finals. Now that I type it, probably not. But hopefully nothing to do with group/duet performances.

  • widz

    Well, when I lived in Australia, they had the Idols in the house and it’s not really ‘drama’..more like a chance to get to know the contestants’s kind like the pre-performance package..

    However, Indonesian Idol had what they called Idol Extra – which is basically a 15-30 min show that shows what the Idols usually do and interviews the Idols in the house whilst eating/drinking certain products..Hee

    I’m sure it wouldn’t be b*tchy drama..afterall Idol is a family show LOL

  • hypertwink

    If they do it like Project Runway, it can actually work.

    I still have problems with this somewhat because AI results are voted upon while Project Runway isn’t. Even the judges aren’t exposed to the shenanigans in the house unless the contestants bring it up or it’s momentous like Marcel’s haircut.

    Also, although I was a little pissed that they didn’t focus so much on the Idols last year, I’d still take that as opposed to this year. Brooke’s breakdowns, Carly’s desperation on show…I mean, I’d hate to think about what they would have done with Cookie being rushed to the hospital. Oh the horror! How about milking the will-he-or-won’t-he-go drama of Adam Cook attending a performance.

  • bean99

    I doubt it will be that big of a deal because they don’t have a lot of time to devote to it, especially since there’s now a 4th judge.

  • elisad

    Ridiculously big? Does that mean ridiculously old? Please no.

    I love the all living in one house thing! Love Rockstar, love Project Runway, love Top Chef! Man I watch too many reality shows…

  • jokiebird

    I agree with you, MJ. I’m not looking forward to the “reality” aspect. I don’t watch other reality shows specifically because I don’t like the infighting and drama. AI always appealed to me because it was strictly about the competition. I hope they don’t take the behind the scenes stuff too far. Plus there tend to be a lot of minors on the show, and I REALLY don’t want to see the kids “getting into it.” (Sheesh I’m old.)

  • ozarka

    I doubt it will be that big of a deal because they donà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t have a lot of time to devote to it, especially since thereà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s now a 4th judge.

    I suspect that they will do away with the Q&A sessions where viewers call in questions during results night and will instead show these behind the scenes footage as filler. So there will be plenty of time.

    I would be glad to be rid of those inane Q&A sessions but I’m very leery about the Reality World-esque sound of it all. I have a feeling it will be a lot like the drama we see during the audition rounds (i.e. the bickering, the whining, and the bawling a la Josiah Lemming). America will end up voting based on how the contestants conduct themselves rather than on their actual talent.

    This is totally bad news!!!

    ETA: If I recall correctly, there was news that there will be no Ford commercials this year, thus giving them even more time to air out the dirty laundry.

  • PokeSmot

    I’m not likin’ this reality drama stuff shennanigins; BBBOOOOOO FOX!!!

    Peace Out & Poke Smot :smoke_tb: