'American Idol' Crew Talks Potential Future, Farewell Cameos and Simon Cowell

Inaugural winner Kelly Clarkson is also set to guest judge.
FOX
'American Idol'

Two weeks into the final run of American Idol, dubbed the "Farewell Season," those most intimate to the show have been surprisingly cryptic about whether or not this is really the end.

Barring a bizarre act of God, American Idol will not be on the 2016-17 Fox schedule, but beyond that seems to be a bit more open-ended — at least according to Ryan Seacrest and Jennifer Lopez. "The network has been extremely supportive of this franchise over the years," Seacrest told reporters Friday at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour. "The numbers look great this season. I think we're all pleased that people are watching and some are perhaps coming back. Does that mean it's the end? I'm not so sure."

Added Lopez: "You never know with a format like this. It could work at any time. You just go with the moment."

One reporter posed the question to the host and judges if they would be game to participate again if the show comes back two or more years down the line. There were no hard answers, but Seacrest, in particular, expressed an interest. "This show is like a family member to me," he said. "I love the promise of this show. I love what this show has done."

Lopez remained diplomatic. "Hypothetically, if that happened, American Idol has a special place in my heart," she said. "I'd always consider."

What is certain is that producers are going whole hog in an attempt to make a spectacle of the last season in this iteration. That includes plenty of cameos, including guest-judge stints from past winners and contestants. There also will be duets between this season's contestants and past winners, as well as more mentors than usual.

"Kelly Clarkson is invited, and she's happy to be guest judge," said executive producer Trish Kinane, also noting that the original Idol winner will be very pregnant at the time of the finale. "We're working out a way to have her involved in the finale."

The most famous alum of all, original judge Simon Cowell, has yet to sign on for any of the live episodes. "I appreciate Simon's part in the history of the show," added Kinane. "He's an important part. There are huge conflicts with Britain's Got Talent, The X Factor and America's Got Talent. The most we can expect is for Simon to be at the finale."

And because it's not an nostalgic Idol affair without bringing up the specter of season-one co-host Brian Dunkleman, Seacrest acknowledged his one-time partner in crime by saying that producers wanted to go in the direction of a solo host despite the success of duo Ant and Dec on the U.K. original series Pop Idol.

"There came a decision of who should be steering this, whether that's him or me," said Seacrest. "And I got the good luck."

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