‘American Idol’ notes: Paula Abdul subbing for Luke Bryan, who has COVID; the ‘comeback’ gimmick; Fantasia; Katharine McPhee

Paula Abdul will sub in for Luke Bryan as an "American Idol" judge tonight after the Georgia country singer reported getting COVID-19. AP
Paula Abdul will sub in for Luke Bryan as an "American Idol" judge tonight after the Georgia country singer reported getting COVID-19. AP

Credit: Associate

Credit: Associate

Georgia country singer Luke Bryan will temporarily step aside as an “American Idol” judge while recuperating from COVID-19 with original “Idol” host Paula Abdul coming in as a sub.

“I’m doing well and look forward to being back at it soon,” Bryan tweeted Monday.

Abdul was part of the trio of judges that helped turn “Idol” into the biggest reality show of the 2000s along with Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson. Cowell is now part of the judges’ panel on his NBC show “America’s Got Talent,” while Jackson was the bandleader for the recent reincarnation of “Name That Tune” on Fox.

The “Straight Up” singer and dancer more recently served as a judge on the Fox show “The Masked Dancer.” And she did a Voltaren arthritis commercial last year where her 2020 self danced with her 1989 self from the “Forever My Girl” video.

Bryan has been part of the revamped “Idol” show on ABC since 2018.

This isn’t the first time a reality show has had to make last-second changes due to the pandemic. Actress Niecy Nash recently subbed out for Nick Cannon as host for several episodes of the latest season of Fox’s “The Masked Singer” when he was diagnosed with COVID.

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Monday night’s “Idol” episode will be the first live one of the season.

It will feature the naming of the top 12, which includes the top 10 vote getters and two other singers chosen by the judges.

On Sunday, April 18, the top 12 will perform Oscar songs and three will be eliminated.

On the following Monday, April 19, there will be a “comeback’ twist: ten former contestants from last year will also perform to try to get into the top 10, a new gimmick the show has never tried before.

The winner from last year Just Sam was ineligible, as were two singers that already signed record deals: Dillon James and Francisco Martin. Producers said they wanted to do this to give these singers a chance to perform on the “Idol” stage. Last year, because of the pandemic, they all had to perform remotely, mostly from their homes.

Here are the singers and what they will sing:

Faith Becnel: “Cry Baby” (Janis Joplin)

Franklin Boone: “Meant to Live” (Switchfoot)

DeWayne Crocker Jr.: “Voice of God” (Dante Bowe feat. Steffany Gretzinger & Chandler Moore)

Cyniah Elise: “Edge of Midnight (Midnight Sky Remix)” (Miley Cyrus feat. Stevie Nicks)

Arthur Gunn: “Iris” (Goo Goo Dolls)

Aliana Jester: “I’ll Never Love Again” (Lady Gaga)

Louis Knight: “Maybe That” (Louis Knight)

Nick Merico: “City Lights” (Nick Merico)

Makayla Phillips: “Anyone” (Demi Lovato)

Olivia Ximines: “Say Yes” (Michelle Williams feat. Beyoncé & Kelly Rowland)

Voting will remain open from April 19 through April 26 and the winner won’t be announced until May 2.

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“American Idol” is taking a rare week off April 25 and 26. The 25th is the Oscars and and the network will air a “Sesame Street” special on Monday. The top 10 will perform on May 2 and 3.

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"American Idol" winner Fantasia was hospitalized regarding pregnancy complications.
"American Idol" winner Fantasia was hospitalized regarding pregnancy complications.

Fantasia landed in the hospital six months into her pregnancy with early contractions a few days ago, but the baby appears to be holding tight.

“We want to thank each and every person who called, texted and all those warriors who prayed for me and our family during this time,” she wrote on Instagram, noting that she was released and “thankful to be going back home. Keziah [the name of the child] is too ready to hit these streets but it’s not her turn just yet!”

This would be Fantasia’s third child.

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Country singer and former "American Idol" finalist Gabby Barrett is having a breakout year with her single "I Hope." Courtesy of Robby Klein
Country singer and former "American Idol" finalist Gabby Barrett is having a breakout year with her single "I Hope." Courtesy of Robby Klein

Credit: Robby Klein

Credit: Robby Klein

Gabby Barrett was named ACM New Artist of the Year along with Jimmie Allen.

Barrett, who had a monster hit last year with “I Hope,” finished season 17 of “Idol” in third place, while Allen made it to Hollywood Week a decade ago. Allen was one of the celebrity duet partners this year for two of the contestants last week.

The ACM Awards will air on CBS Sunday, April 18.

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Season 5′s Katharine McPhee is now starring in a Netflix show, “Country Comfort,” that just came out.

McPhee, who just had a son in February with producer David Foster, spent four seasons on CBS ensemble drama “Scorpion” as the “normal” mom with a genius child who hung out with a bunch of geniuses.

“Country Comfort” is a traditional three-camera sitcom where she plays a country singer who ends up becoming a nanny. She gets to perform.

“When I read the pilot, I just thought it had so much heart,” McPhee told People. “And it’s so original to be in a sitcom that’s also a musical comedy. I’m definitely not part of the country world, but that’s the exciting thing as an actor, you get to do something outside your wheelhouse as a person.”

She also performed duets with two “American Idol” contestants last week.

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