Here’s How American Idol Will Broadcast From Home, Plus Top 20 Twist


As the new tagline says “The Show Must Go On” and despite shutdown of production due to coronavirus concerns, American Idol will finish the season and crown a winner.

ABC had only filmed episodes through the Hawaii showcase. The network bought time by airing two weeks of clip shows. Last night, Ryan Seacrest announced Grace Leer the winner of the head to head competition with Lauren Mascitti for the last spot in the Top 20.

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Ironically, the original plan was to give fans even more live shows and earlier voting than the previous two Disney seasons. Now, there will be NO live shows. Episodes will be shot live to tape ahead of time. 

ABC Exec on Why American Idol Will Air Remotely, Instead of Waiting

From an ABC press release: “The stakes have never been higher as the Top 20 perform remotely for a spot in the Top 10 of American Idol. For the first time ever, “American Idol” reaches audiences in an all-new way, as judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, Lionel Richie, host Ryan Seacrest, in-house mentor Bobby Bones and the Top 20 contestants participate from different locations. Don’t miss the remaining Idol hopefuls as they continue their journeys remotely, filming their performances on iPhones, singing their hearts out for a chance to win America’s vote and ultimately the coveted season three crown!” 

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American Idol executive producer Trish Kihane spoke with Variety and Billboard, and released a preview to Entertainment Weekly.

Here’s what to expect:

  • The show will take place in 45 different locations. Idol performance episodes won’t be live, but will now be “live to tape,” in order to give the show’s producers a chance to edit the show into something broadcast-ready.
  • With only 4 remaining the shows, the Top 20 will be cut to a Top 10 via America’s vote. The eliminated contestants will be revealed on the May 3 episode.
  • ABC reality chief Rob Mills spins: “Four weeks is the right amount of time for these people to perform. It’s going to be more cutthroat because you’re going to see more people eliminated each week than normal. So there is going to be less room for error. And I think that will make it more exciting.”
  • The producers have sent iPhone cameras and lighting kits to all of the contestants and have also been working with them on how and where to shoot their performances at home. Oh boy. The quality of the live feeds will be totally dependent on the contestant’s technical skills. 
  • Kihane: “One of our contestants took it upon himself to build a little stage in his garage with backdrops, and it’s looking amazing. They’re bringing out cushions and tapestries and goodness knows what else out of their cupboards. We’ve got one girl who has a lake as a backdrop, which looks fantastic. I’m proud of the quality that we hope to be able to deliver.” In other words, contestants who have the means and know-how will have a leg up.
  • The producers have been consulting with contestants on how to do wardrobe, hair and makeup.
  • Vocal coaching, band sessions are all being conducted remotely. “The vocal coaching sessions have been interesting,” Kinane said.
  • An engineering control room in Kansas City is handling all the incoming video, and then spitting it out again for the judges and contestants can watch the proceedings on a split screen. ” We’re not doing it all via Zoom or Skype,” says Kinane, “Basically we’re doing it in a sort of much higher quality way.”

From the Billboard piece:

The elements are all going to be the American Idol you know. There’s going to be Ryan linking from his home… we’re in 25 different locations with the contestants and Ryan and the judges and God knows how many producers. I think there are like 45 different remote locations at play. It will be Ryan introducing the judges, the judges messing around as they do, stand by for some amazing outfit from Katy Perry. She’s not just going to sit there in her pajamas. Bobby [Bones] from Nashville and then the 20 contestants remotely from their homes… 

It’s all the familiar elements, voting… viewers will still vote, there will still be results of the vote next week and we still have celebrity guests along the way. The big challenge is to do the finale with the same elements that we usually have. Most of this is being taped as-live… “hey Katy, what are you wearing? Now let’s have Gil, Gil what are you singing?” So we’re pre-recording all of that in case the internet goes down or in case something technological happens, so it’s recorded as live. For the finale we’re going to record most of the show as-live the day before, but we have to go live-live-live for the result because this is your next American Idol and viewers will have been voting throughout the show. So that part will be very exciting and challenging and pray for the internet.

…for the most part it will be as-live. It’s not live-live, but we will have taped it the day before. But with the judges we’ll be watching them live… when I say “live,” they’ll be watching the thing they taped the day before and they will be seeing it there and then and commenting there and then. The putting together of it is as-live, so not like we’re recording everybody separately. The three judges and the contestant and Ryan will all be able to see each other, talk to each other and comment on the performances. 

American Idol airs Sunday April 26 at 8 pm ET/PT on ABC. The finale airs May 17.


About mj santilli 34535 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!