June 23, 2014 6:00pm PT by Michael O'Connell, Lacey Rose
It's Official: Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban Join Harry Connick Jr. and Ryan Seacrest in 'American Idol' Return
American Idol has locked down talent for its upcoming 14th season.
The long-running singing competition series is bringing back its trio of judges, Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban, along with host Ryan Seacrest. The news follows the April announcement that Fox’s reality flagship would be returning and the upcoming season’s audition circuit would include stops in the judges’ hometowns.
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Both Connick Jr. and Seacrest had previously secured deals, and Lopez and Urban have long been considered a given. The coming season will bring Lopez’s total to four, as she previously sat at the judges’ table in 2011 and 2012, before departing the show for its 12th season. (Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj provided the panel’s female voice that year.) Meanwhile, this season brings Urban and Connick Jr. to three and two seasons, respectively.
"Jennifer, Keith, Harry and Ryan are the very best in the business at what they do, and I’m thrilled that they are returning to American Idol for another season," said 21st Century Fox senior exec vp David Hill. "Each brings unique qualities and expertise to the team, but they all share the same passion for helping undiscovered singers achieve the American dream."
As for Seacrest, his two-year deal will keep him as the host of the series for a 15th season should Fox renew the aging flagship. “I am thrilled our consummate host, Mr. Ryan Seacrest, is returning for Season 14, together with Jennifer, Harry and Keith,” said creator and executive producer Simon Fuller. “Their interaction, warmth and experience made them an absolute joy to watch. I can't wait to see their evolution together continue next season.”
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The coming season of American Idol will likely look different in other ways, including its hours on air. Before his departure from the network, then Fox chief Kevin Reilly acknowledged the series' steep ratings drops by sounding off on trimming it down. He noted that the show will be pared down to 37 hours next season, a significant shift from the 50-some hours that have been produced in recent years.
Auditions for the coming season of American Idol are already underway, with dates in New Orleans, Long Island, Nashville and San Francisco all set for the rest of the summer.