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Rodney Ho covers TV and radio, from Atlanta’s stations to the hottest “American Idol" news.

'American Idol' bits: judges and Seacrest likely to be back season 14 with fewer hours; top 3 rankings; Clay Aiken

AMERICAN IDOL XIII: L-R: Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick, Jr, on AMERICAN IDOL XIII airing Thursday, April 24 (9:00-9:30 PM ET / PT) on FOX. CR: Michael Becker / FOX. Copyright 2014 / FOX Broadcasting.

"American Idol" is close to bringing back the current three judges and has already signed Ryan Seacrest for season 14, reports.

Given how much money the show is probably costing Fox this year with its alarmingly sinking ratings, this is a bit surprising.

Not so surprising: Fox plans to cut back hours. Most notably, the results show is likely a goner. I'm not sure this is the worst thing in the world. Both "America's Next Top Model" and "Dancing With the Stars" have survived life without a results show.

The show has aired about 55 hours a year for awhile. That will be scaled by a third to an estimated 37 hours. Auditions will continue to run twice a week in January. But if they cut, say, the top 13 to top 10 and nix the results, they could easily get down to 37 hours.

During a press conference this morning, Fox president Kevin Reilly refused to admit any tangible problems with this season and said there are "good indications" the judges will return. "It's not about turning it around," he said, paraphrasing the question by a reporter. "It's about making a good show for many years to come." He noted that "Survivor" has not be a huge ratings winner for years but has managed to survive. He wants "Idol" to be like that as well.

Theories on how Fox may be able to afford the three judges plus Seacrest:

- Seacrest has stated in the past that he plans to stick with the show to the bitter end. I feel the show need him more than the other way around but he's a true loyalist since "Idol" helped propel him to what he is today: an entrepreneur/TV producer/mogul whose net worth is probably now in excess of $100 million. I'm not sure if he was willing to take a big pay cut but if it's less work, he'd probably agree to less pay.

As for the three judges, it's clear they are enjoying the camaraderie so much, they too may be willing to take a pay cut, with awareness the work load will be reduced.

That's good news for the few of us who are still watching the show because the general consensus is this is the best judges' crew since the original three and arguably is better than the original three in many ways.


Scotty McCreery performs during the results show Thursday.


AMERICAN IDOL XIII: Top Three: L-R: Alex Preston, Jena Irene and Caleb Johnson. CR: Michael Becker / FOX. Copyright 2014 / FOX.

My Power rankings for this week make it clear this is going to be a tough call. Often at this point, it's easy to say who the final two are going to be. But I'm not so sure right now. It's anybody's call.

1. Jena. I realize sometimes the most divisive person can win the competition. Think Fantasia and Taylor Hicks. They had plenty of foes. Jena has spirit, she's teachable, she loves being on stage. She can work the piano or just romp around. She has also has a unique voice, whether you like it or not. Her fans could potentially carry her to the top and not make this an obvious dude win, as many had anticipated earlier. (2)

2. Alex. He is WGWG personified. He is distinctive and particular and "Alex-cizes" anything that is thrown at him. He is also a bit predictable at times. But that means his fans probably vote for him week in, week out, without failure. So he is a likely finalist. (1)

3. Caleb. I had him at the top for weeks. Even separate from the "retards" comment controversy that barely was, he has been the most consistent, the most seasoned, and almost always entertaining. He's also a throwback (like Taylor Hicks) with no real connection to modern-day pop or rock music. That could hurt or help him. Given the shrunken pool of voters and the ease in which folks can vote as well, I can't tell if that will make any difference this week. Just because he's third, doesn't mean I don't think he can win. Any of these three could pull a victory out. (3)


The theme this week is pretty traditional at this stage: judge's pick, Randy's pick and a favorite song from the past (though the pick will be made by the public).


Ratings: "Idol" ratings were down again for the performance show, up slightly for the results show.

Wednesday: 7.97 million 1.8 18-49 rating (year ago: 11.26 million 2.9/9). That's a drop from a week earlier of 8.79 million and a 1.9 18-49. Again, it's a series low for a performance show. Which shows did better that night? "Survivor" (9.9 million 2.4), "Modern Family" (8.85 million, 2.9), "Criminal Minds" (10.52 million, 2.3) and the ancient "CSI" (10.01 million, 1.9). In other words, two shows that are older than "Idol" beat "Idol." Also, one of the NBA playoff games on TNT beat "Idol" as well.

Thursday: 7.18 million viewers 1.6 18-49 (year ago: 11.27 million, 2.6 rating 18-49). That's up from 7.03 million and a 1.5 18-49 a week earlier. It's the third worst results show performance to date.  Among broadcast shows, "Idol" was beaten by "The Big Bang Theory" (14.42 million 3.8), "The Millers" (8.96 million, 1.9), "Grey's Anatomy" (7.95 million 2.5/7), "Two and a Half Men" (8.35 million 2.1) and in total viewers "Elementary" (7.35 million). Among cable shows, ESPN's coverage of the NFL Draft drew 9.94 viewers and a dominant 4.6 18-49).


It looks like Clay Aiken will be the  candidate for the Democratic slot in a North Carolina house race. He is clinging to a 369 vote lead before absentee ballots are counted. Odds are solid he will win to compete against the Republican but his odds of winning in November are slim to none, based on how conservative his district is.

The Washington Post wrote a fun piece about him here, noting that he's big on education (of course, being a former special ed teacher), a defense hawk and not making a big deal about being gay. Also, Ruben Studdard endorsed him!  Plus, he is on a "singing sabbatical."

UPDATE: 6:17 p.m. Weirdest thing ever: Aiken's Democratic opponent Keith Crisco died last night! That kind of simplifies things but wow.

Clay Aiken is the likely winner getting the Democratic seat in a North Carolina district that is heavily Republican. CREDIT: AP


EW interviews Jessica Meuse, who sounds sweet and quite normal. I hope she has a shot at something in Nashville.

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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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