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American Idol Needs Better Contestants to “Capture the Imagination of the Public,” Fox Exec Says

American Idol
Fox Networks chairman and CEO Peter Rice says the rather floundering American Idol needs a group of contestants who will better "capture the imagination of the public" to be able to compete with The Voice and Rising Star

Memo to Kelly Clarkson: American Idol hasn't been the same "since u been gone." Even Fox Networks chairman and CEO Peter Rice has noticed a change in the star quality of the contestants over the past few seasons, which has arguably led to the once-dominant show's lowest ratings ever. Speaking at a Television Critics Association event on Sunday, July 20, Rice told reporters in L.A. that Idol needs better, more captivating competitors, presumably like the Kelly Clarksons and Carrie Underwoods of years past.

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"I do think if I have a criticism of the show for us last year, it's that we haven't found a group of kids that have captured the imagination of the public," he said. "They've been really talented kids. But for whatever reason, there hasn't been that sort of catalyst behind the show." Moving forward, he added, the focus will be on that, and not on "this constant conversation about who should be the judges and whether they've done a good job."

(Since the departures of original judges Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, and Randy Jackson, there's been a revolving door of new panelists, including Steven Tyler, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, and—going into this season—Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, and Harry Connick Jr.)

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Rice noted, too, that it's a "very competitive world" for shows like American Idol, what with The Voice, America's Got Talent, and the newly launched ABC show Rising Star. "There are multiple sort of derivative shows on the air that it competes with," he explained of the Fox hit, which is going into its 14th season. "And we have to focus on making a really good show, and I do think the one thing that we should try and do a better job of is to try to find a group of kids that capture the imagination of the public more."

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That said, Rice feels confident that the series is headed in a good direction. "It's still a very strong show for us. It's a show that we love," he told reporters. "It's been on our air for 13 years. I think it is aging gracefully."

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