Fox releases 'American Idol' schedule, confirms format changes
By Christopher Rocchio and Steve Rogers, 12/15/2008
Fox has announced the entire early season broadcast schedule for American Idol's eighth season and confirmed that the season will feature a few format changes that will include two weeks of Hollywood Round broadcasts, the use of 36 semifinalists and the return of a "Wild Card" semifinals round.
American Idol's eighth season will premiere over the course of two consecutive nights on Tuesday, January 13 and Wednesday, January 14, with both two-hour broadcasts beginning at 8PM ET/PT.
Episodes featuring this summer's auditions in East Rutherford, NJ; Jacksonville, FL; Kansas City, MO; Louisville, KY; Phoenix, AZ; Salt Lake City, UT; San Francisco, CA; and San Juan, Puerto Rico will air during the premiere and then continue with five more one-hour broadcasts. The final audition episode will air January 29.
Coverage of American Idol's eighth season Hollywood Round will then commence on Tuesday, February 3 at 8PM ET/PT and continue the following night in the same timeslot.
However rather than airing only two Hollywood Round episodes -- as has been the case in recent seasons -- Fox will instead broadcast an additional two episodes on February 10 and 11.
At the conclusion of the two-hour February 11 broadcast, American Idol's eighth-season Top 36 semifinalists will be revealed.
Idol's eighth season will be the first season to feature 36 semifinalists. The show had previously featured 24 semifinalists since its fourth season in 2005. Prior to that, Idol's second and third seasons had featured 32 semifinalists while its first season had featured 30 semifinalists.
Idol's eighth season will also be the first season since the 2004 third season to utilize a "Wild Card" semifinals round.
Once the semifinalists are revealed, they will be grouped into three groups of twelve and Idol will begin three weeks of broadcasts in which twelve semifinalists will perform during two-hour pre-taped Tuesdays at 8PM ET/PT performance episodes and and the results of the subsequent home viewer voting will be revealed during live one-hour results shows airing Wednesdays at 8PM ET/PT.
At the conclusion of each results show, the male and female semifinalists who received the highest number of home viewers votes for their previous night's performance will instantly become a Top 12 finalist. In addition, another semifinalist that had received the next-highest number of votes after the performance episode -- regardless of whether he or she is male or female -- will also become a finalist.
"We wanted to change things up a little bit, and we felt that in doing the show with 12 [male semifinalists] and 12 [female semifinalists] that by the time we got down to the [season's] final eight [finalists] we'd been living with these kids for like eight weeks already and if any of them didn't have fantastic characters it got a bit boring," Idol executive producer Ken Warwick told reporters during a telephone press conference on Monday. "So we changed it slightly back to the way we used to have it."
Then on Thursday, March 5, Fox will air a special "Wild Card" performance episode that will feature each semifinalist group's highest remaining votegetter who didn't already get to automatically advance to the finals will get a second chance to perform along with several additional semifinalists that the judges will select.
"They [will be able to] make that fourth show up to probably about nine or ten people, we haven't quite decided yet," Warwick explained.
After all the "Wild Card" semifinalists perform, the judges -- not the show's home viewers -- will immediately select three of them to complete the season's twelve finalists.
American Idol's eighth-season Top 12 finalists will then take the stage for the first time on Tuesday, March 10, with one finalist's journey coming to an end when home viewer votes are revealed on Wednesday, March 11.
During the press conference, Warwick also confirmed that unlike the show's last two seasons, Idol's eighth season won't feature an Idol Gives Back charity fundraiser special.
"We're probably going to go down the same route as the Red Nose Day [British charity fundraiser that Idol Gives Back had originally been modeled on], which is every other year," Warwick said. "This is a difficult financial time for everyone globally, so I think the decision made was 'look, let's hold it over until next year and do it then.'"
Rumors that Idol's eighth season planning to feature 36 semifinalists and a "Wild Card" round but wouldn't have an Idol Gives Back special first began circulating when an alleged internal Fox memo had surfaced online at mjsbigblog.com, an Idol news blog, last week.
The following is American Idol's entire early eighth-season broadcast schedule:
- Tuesday, January 13 8-10PM ET/PT - Season Premiere Part 1, Auditions
- Wednesday, January 14 8-10PM ET/PT - Season Premiere Part 2, Auditions
- Tuesday, January 20 8-9PM ET/PT - Auditions
- Wednesday, January 21 8-9PM ET/PT - Auditions
- Tuesday, January 27 8-9PM ET/PT - Auditions
- Wednesday, January 28 8-9PM ET/PT - Auditions
- Thursday, January 29 8-9PM ET/PT - Auditions
- Tuesday, February 3 8-9PM ET/PT - Hollywood Round, Part 1
- Wednesday, February 4 8-9PM ET/PT - Hollywood Round, Part 2
- Tuesday, February 10 8-9PM ET/PT - Hollywood Round, Part 3
- Wednesday, February 11 8-10PM ET/PT - Hollywood Round, Part 4, Top 36 semifinalists announced
- Tuesday, February 17 8-10PM ET/PT - Group 1 semifinalists perform
- Wednesday, February 18 8-9PM ET/PT - First live results show, three finalists advance
- Tuesday, February 24 8-10PM ET/PT - Group 2 semifinalists perform
- Wednesday, February 25 8-9PM ET/PT - Second live results show, three more finalists advance
- Tuesday, March 3 8-10PM ET/PT - Group 3 semifinalists perform
- Wednesday, March 4 8-9PM ET/PT - Third live results show, three more finalists advance
- Thursday, March 5 8-9PM ET/PT - "Wild Card" episode, three more finalists advance and Top 12 finalists revealed
- Tuesday, March 10 8-10PM ET/PT - Top 12 finalists perform
- Wednesday, March 11 - First finalists live results show, one finalist voted off