All Hail 'American Idol': ABC Revival Saves Television

The revival of “American Idol” might be the smartest thing ABC has ever done.

The two-hour premiere coming this Sunday is so great and so satisfying that I did not even feel the need to watch the entire one-hour and 24-minute length of the commercial-free episode that ABC provided for preview in order to conclude that this show has the potential to become the supreme pleasure of the current TV season.

You might say this show had me at hello, as a famous movie quote goes. Part of its appeal lies in its familiarity. The format has not changed, nor has the look of the show.

As soon as it starts, you know you’ve been there before. In this instance, this is a good thing. The sight of fresh-faced, excited hopefuls lined up at various venues around the country for a new round of auditions is like television's version of comfort food.



The original “American Idol” ran for 15 seasons on Fox before calling it day in April 2016. The warmth with which it is possible to receive this new version on ABC raises the age-old question: What was Fox thinking? Or more to the point: Why did they end it?

The premiere episode of this 16th season -- the first on ABC -- indicates there is plenty of life left in this old warhorse.

While the show looks and sounds the same as it ever did, there is a new panel of three judges -- Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan -- representing R&B, pop and country, respectively.

They are a very likable group who seem as if they gelled instantly.

One of the great thrills of “American Idol” comes in the surprises the show sets up for you. Exhibit A: Young Catie Turner of Langhorne, Pennsylvania, seen in the photo above from this weekend’s premiere.

In the intro material leading up to her audition in New York, she is a kooky, crazy teen who you assume will utterly blow this audition with some otherworldly, off-key performance.

But no. The opposite occurs. Her audition is spectacular and the only thing otherworldly about her is the depth of her incredible talent. And she is the very first audition you will see in the show.

The producers of this show were shrewd to place her audition first. It not only raises your expectations for what is to come, but she makes you feel so good that it is possible to fall in love with this show all over again.

At its best, “American Idol” was always the finest and most attractive of all of the talent-competition shows that have been on TV since it paved the way starting in 2002. Maybe all “American Idol” needed was a mere two years rest.

For ABC, “American Idol” is a fine addition to its stable of reality TV shows -- a worthy companion to “Dancing With the Stars,” which is also one of the best shows of its kind anywhere on television.

It is also true that ABC is the home of “The Bachelor,” which is quite possibly the stupidest TV series ever made. Fortunately, though, “The Bachelor” said good-bye earlier this week for another season.

Now that we have a new season of “American Idol” under way, it is smooth sailing all the way to May.

The new “American Idol” premieres Sunday (March 11) at 8 p.m. Eastern on ABC.

Next story loading loading..