‘American Idol’ Veterans Vote for a Reboot, With Former Finalists as Judges

Hollywood is abuzz — yet again — about prospects of an “American Idol” reboot, this time at ABC with a return slated for spring of 2018. Will the once formidable music competition show, which spent 15 years at Fox, fly again?

Former “Idol” associate musical director Michael Orland, who coached hundreds of finalists during his decade-and-a-half working on the show, thinks the franchise is ripe for a refresh. “‘American Idol’ was, and still is, the biggest and best of all of the entertainment competition shows,” he tells Variety. “It also produced so many people that came out of the show that still continue to make an incredible living as a result of their exposure on the show.”

Orland says that some of that talent nurtured on the series — which turned out stars that included Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry, Jennifer Hudson, Katharine McPhee, Kellie Pickler, Fantasia, Phillip Phillips, and Adam Lambert, among others — are prime candidates to take the show into the next phase if it winds up at ABC — not coincidentally the new employer of “Idol” host Ryan Seacrest.

“I say, do a reboot and get some of these past ‘Idol’ performers and not just winners to come sit in the judges’ chairs,” Orland said. “I think there’s more than a handful that would be really great at it.”

Tony-nominated Broadway star Constantine Maroulis, who appeared in the show’s competitive fourth season, agrees that former contestants have a unique perspective that can add something fresh to the show’s future. “I believe involving former contestants would be a huge bonus and a great way to win audiences back [and] make the show about the contestants again,” says the stage veteran, who has appeared in “Rock of Ages,” “Jekyll & Hyde,” and on the soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful.” “So many great careers and so many stories have come from ‘American Idol.’ It would be compelling to see contestants from varying backgrounds and genres, all who have ‘Idol’ in common.”

Former vocal coach Peisha McPhee, who recently coached Disney star Auli’I Cravalho through her star-making turn in the movie “Moana,” says that if “Idol” comes back, it will need a fresh approach, but should stick to the basics that made the show a success in the first place. While many of the “Idol” kids possessed natural singing ability, coaching was required to take them to the next level, she explains, and the television audience was along for the ride. “People love to watch people grow and change,” McPhee said.

Others from the show’s music brain-trust, like Grammy-winning producer and former musical director Rickey Minor, are open to a return as well, but the seesawing rumors seemed to have dampened some spirits.

“I’m always hopeful … to make music,” Minor tells Variety. “I had a great time on that show. I’m happy to do it, or I’m happy to move on.”

Whether or not a reboot would include Seacrest — who recently accepted a co-hosting gig on ABC’s “Live With Kelly,” in addition to his syndicated “On Air With Ryan Seacrest” radio show on Los Angeles’ KIIS-FM — remains to be seen. Says Orland: “Ryan Seacrest was such a huge part of ‘Idol’s’ success, and we’d just have to work around his schedule. It’s that easy. That’s what private jets are for, right, ABC? And while we’re at it: Can I have a one-time private tour guide at Disney?”

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