'American Idol' 2018 return sneak preview of first episode March 11

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

Posted Tuesday, March 6, 2018 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

"Music is a world within itself with a language we all understand." - Stevie Wonder's 'Sir Duke," opening the ABC version of "American Idol" 

Early in the first episode of "American Idol" on ABC airing this Sunday, which I previewed, the producers chose Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" as backdrop music at one point, a curious choice because it's about the sad break-up between Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.

The lyrics are bittersweet:

You will never love me again

I can still hear you saying

You would never break the chain (Never break the chain)

For many former "American Idol" fans, the chain was broken years ago. It's almost like an audio challenge. If you don't love the show now, why would you do so in the future?

The producers, many who are the same folks who created the Fox version, don't stray from the "Idol" formula in its latter years. Folks who still watched until the end should like what they see here. Here's are my thoughts on the two-hour audition debut episode airing at 8 p.m. Sunday.

Charming judges panel: There is zero ostensible friction among Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Brian, the three new judges. They really do seem like they get along and they are gentle on the eyes and ears. It's not far off the mark from the trio of Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban in the final years of "Idol." Nobody can get as geeky as Connick in terms of critiques but Lionel plays wise elder statesman while Katy is the wacky younger sister and Luke the goofy bro. Katy dances with one of the contestants. There's occasional hugs. Luke and Lionel high five when they like a singer. It works, at least during the auditions. We'll see how they handle the live shows.

Ryan Seacrest's role: He is his usual anodyne self. Nothing at all different there and nothing sticks out, to be honest.

How were the good singers? As usual, there was a mix of decent to potentially great singers with pop and R&B feel but not a lot of quality rock. I found at least four of them had real potential for the top 10.

No real echoes of William Hung: "Idol" in its final years stripped away the deluded bad singers. In reality, very few actually show up to  auditions. But there is one woman who is on Broadway and can't dial it back. Plus, she is super (over)-confident of her abilities to be a pop star. Lionel says later, "In the music business, she would die a thousand deaths." There's also a clueless mono-tone punk singer and a Russian dude who thinks the louder the better.

Back stories? Of course! One dude lost his dad when he was two. Another girl tortured the National Anthem when she was 11 and is seeking redemption. A Congo native was abused by his dad. And one kid loves socks so much he has a pair for every day of the year.


"American Idol," 8 p.m. Sunday, ABC