American Idol: Kelly Clarkson Returns as Guest Judge, Alum Duets

2016 FOX WINTER TCA: (L-R) AMERICAN IDOL Judge Jennifer Lopez, Season 10 Winner Scotty McCreery, Mentor Scott Borchetta, Season 14 Winner Nick Fradiani, Season 7 Winner David Cook, Season 6 Winner Jordin Sparks, Judges Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr., Season 10 Runner-Up Lauren Alaina, Season 2 Winner Ruben Studdard, Host Ryan Seacrest and Season 8 Winner Kris Allen behind the scenes at the Langham Hotel, Friday, Jan. 15 in Pasadena, CA. CR: Michael Becker/FOX

The American Idol panel at the Television Critics Association tour in Pasadena on Friday featured a slew of American Idol winners/alum. Along with mentor Scott Borchetta, EP Trish Kinane, host Ryan Seacrest and judges Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban, were winners Ruben Studdard (s2), Jordin Sparks (s6), David Cook (s7), Kris Allen (s8), Scotty McCreery (s10), Nick Fradiani (S14) and runner-up Laura Alaina (S10).

The big takeaways on what to expect from the American Idol farewell season: Kelly Clarkson will return to judge and perform for the first live show. Idol alums will duet with the Top 24 during the middle rounds. (ETA: Vulture reports Kinane announced the alums who appeared at the panel will be the duet partners.)

Simon Cowell’s schedule is so tight these days, he’ll probably only make it back for the finale. Season 1 co-host, Brian Dunkleman will likely make an appearance!

The likelihood of gathering all the winners in one spot at one time, along with the original judges, doesn’t look promising. We’ll likely see many old faces throughout the season, but probably not all together.

The judges indulged in some wishful thinking about Idol returning after a rest. That’s up to FOX. But considering how they LOVE to recycle (24, X Files, Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader, FOX announced Prison Break is coming back) I could see Idol returning to FOX in a few years. It could also return on another platform. Core media recently conducted a survey to see how interested fans would be in Idol coming back in various forms.

Highlights from the Panel:

  • Kelly Clarkson will appear as a guest judge during American Idol’s first live show. She will also perform.
  • Former American Idol contestants will duet with this year’s contestants during the middle rounds of the competition (Actually, we knew that already)
  • We’re bringing quite a few of the former Idols to help the new contestants this season,” says Idol executive producer, Kinane.
  • We’re talking to everybody who has made a huge contribution to come back,” says Kinane.
  • “There are huge scheduling issues” says Kinane regarding Simon Cowell’s return. “The most we can expect is him at the finale.” (Simon will be busy with his new gig at America’s Got Talent.)
  • Brian Dunkleman will likely return!!!
  • It is too soon to ask regarding plans for the return of Adam Lambert on the show this season.
  • Kinane took the high road regarding Clay Aiken’s twitter comments criticizing the judges. She says she’s happy with the job Harry, Jennifer and Keith are doing.
  • “When you’ve got a franchise with this heritage, does that mean it’s the end? I’m not so sure,” Ryan muses.
  • “The Eagles have had at least three farewell tours,” quips Keith Urban regarding American Idol’s “farewell season.”
  • “Idol has a special place in my heart. It’s something I’ll always consider,” Jennifer Lopez says of returning if the show comes back.
  • “Because it’s the farewell season, more people have turned up at auditions,” says Kinane.
  • “This show is like a family member to me. I love the promise of this show. I’m obsessed about it,” says Ryan
  • Ryan Seacrest worries sometimes that he might have a Steve Harvey moment (call the wrong winner/eliminated contestant). He does a walkthrough to anticipate problems that could happen and makes necessary changes.
  • Keith Urban swears he isn’t tougher on the country girls. But, he is realistic about how tough Nashville can be.

The Idol alums joined the panel toward the end of the hour.

  • American Idol is as close to a fame boot camp as there is,” says David Cook.
  • “Just because you’re on TV and people know your face, there are no guarantees,” says Kris Allen about what happens post-Idol.
  • Ruben Studdard says getting to perform consistently post-American Idol has been the most fulfilling thing so far.
  • Belinda Thomas did a good job of tweeting the Idol alums reactions. Unfortunately, Twitter malfunctioned toward the end of the hour.  I’ll post some of the good ones below.
  • Advice for the contestants: Jordin “no real blueprint but you just do it” Scotty: “Have good people around you.” Nick: “It comes down to the music, you’ve gotta put out really great material once you leave the show.” Nick and Kris: even though you are on tv you still need to work hard. Ruben: Everyone has their own idea of what making it is…. not trying to get anyone else’s career.
  • “Stories don’t help me judge,” says Harry Connick Jr. regarding contestant’s emotional backstories. David thinks the story isn’t important it helps but not necessary JLo thinks that the audience votes on the the performances once they get to the top 10 or 12 — story can only do so much. Harry only want their age and their name. Keith wants more story. Jordin – Not everyone has a heart wrenching story but something that people can relate t0. She related to Ruben, for instance.
  • Scotty thinks Idol has found talent that connects with the audience better than any other show does
  • Kris  loved that he went to Motown and got to meet Smokey and Berry Gordy
  • Ruben was surprised that people like Stevie Wonder was a fan.
  • Lauren on how young she was–always thought she was going home. She packed every week and was so worried that she didn’t enjoy it
  • Nick was happy to stay on the show so that he could be at the Sunset Marquis & not to have to go back to his crappy apartment.
  • Ryan remembers every relationship with the former contestants He tried to spend as much time with them as possible

Photo Gallery

This is cute! Look at all those WINNERS!

‘Act like you like each other, guys.’ Lol #idolmoments #idol #tca16 #foxtca

A photo posted by Jordin Sparks (@jordinsparks) on

About mj santilli 34550 Articles
Founder and editor of, home of the awesomest fan community on the net. I love cheesy singing shows of all kinds, whether reality or scripted. I adore American Idol, but also love The Voice, Glee, X Factor and more!