The network was counting on the show to fill many hours on ABC’s Sunday and Monday night schedule. Rob Mills, ABC’s senior VP of series, specials and late-night, said the “Idol” team embraced the age-old mantra “the show must go on” in crafting a way for the live performance shows to continue starting April 26 with contestants performing from remote locations while judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan will preside from their homes.
“I’m fascinated to see how ‘American Idol’ looks and feels when people are doing their performance remotely,” Mills says in the latest episode of Variety podcast “Strictly Business.”
Listen to this week’s episode here:
The pandemic-related delay in “Idol’s” third season on ABC was particularly frustrating to Mills because he felt that “everything was really trending in ‘Idol’s’ direction” before the outbreak up-ended life around the globe.
“We were pacing ahead of last year in everything. The judge’s now three seasons in are better than ever. Katy announced she was pregnant so that was exciting,” he says. “Then all of this happened.”
Production on “Idol” stopped for about two weeks while ABC and producer FremantleMedia North America tried to figure out the best course of action.
“The goal line kept moving,” he says of the changing circumstances in the public health crisis. “Then finally we had to say ‘OK, what is this show now? … How do we do the best version of this show at home?”
Mills’ busy alternative department faced other challenges. The much-anticipated primetime revival of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” with Jimmy Kimmel as host wound up taping without a studio audience — and Mills feels fortunate that the schedule allowed them to finish the episodes at all.
With no clear sense of when the social distancing mandates will ease, Mills is looking across ABC’s alternative slate for retrofitting ideas. Yes, he’s already thinking about a “Bachelor in Quarantine” edition of the enduring relationship series.
“How do we do the show now? How do we reflect the times we’re living in, how can we be nimble and how do we get back into production as quickly as possible,” Mills said of “The Bachelor” franchise.
As much as it’s been a scramble, Mills said there’s been a spirit of innovation under duress that is invigorating.
“It’s led to some really interesting and creative things that wouldn’t have happened before,” he says. “When this [quarantine] is all over we have to be vigilant about [evaluating] what did we learn and how can we use this in our everyday production once we get back to full speed.”
“Strictly Business” is Variety‘s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. A new episode debuts each Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.