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NOV
30
4 YEARS

Inside 'American Idol' judge hunt: Isaak, Connick among contenders; Trump wants in

Isaak Exclu: The search to replace Simon Cowell is intensifying as preliminary auditions get under way for the 10th season of Fox’s "American Idol."

The network is determined to land a widely known music industry figure for the post, and THR has learned that singer Chris Isaak has met twice with the network.

Also, at least one desirable candidate has set off a tug-of-war between "Idol" executive producer Simon Fuller and Cowell — whose upcoming Fox singing competition "The X Factor" is similarly seeking judges.

While Fox insists no decision is imminent, the clock is ticking to replace the snarky Brit. Peter Rice, the network’s new entertainment chairman, has said he expects the new "Idol" judge to join the audition roadshow by early September.

Though filling Cowell’s chair is the network’s top priority, it could be just one of several significant changes. Though "Idol" remains the highest-rated series on TV, its numbers have declined in recent years. Some believe the recent decision to lower the show’s age audition requirement (from 16 to 15) could be the beginning of an "Idol" revamp.

As for replacing Cowell, the network has met with a fair number of candidates.

Harry Isaak, in addition to penning hit songs like 1989’s "Wicked Game," has appeared in a slew of TV series over the years, including "Eastwick," "Cold Case," "Smallville" and his own "Chris Isaak Show" for Showtime.

Another affable crooner, Harry Connick Jr., also has been considered.

Rocker Bret Michaels was given the once-over and even lobbied for the job last week in an HLN interview ("I would love to do it, I would really bring it to the table," Michaels told Joy Behar). Sources say, however, that Michaels is out of the running, at least for the "Idol" post.

Even Donald Trump has quietly lobbied to replace Cowell despite his longtime association with NBC as producer and judge of "The Apprentice" franchise.

Armed with a list of prospects, Fox is trying to figure out how all the pieces will fit together for both "Idol" and "X Factor" — a delicate process given the personalities involved.

Trump With long-standing tension between Cowell and Fuller, the notion that there is tension between the Fox talent shows is not surprising. Some believe Cowell would be pleased if the biggest show on television took a tumble with him gone.

One thing is for certain — any rivalry is expected to only increase next year as the latest incarnation of "Idol" and the new "X Factor" hit the network’s lineup.

Contact the authors James Hibberd and Kim Masters at james.hibberd@thr.com and kim.masters@thr.com