'American Idol' Team Explains Abbreviated Live Shows, Why Last Season Fell Short

"The one thing I can tell you is that we're not going to do the elimination at the top of the show."
Michael Becker / Fox
'American Idol'

Two weeks into its 14th season, the latest changes to American Idol aren't wildly evident. But to accommodate fewer hours of air time (41 compared to last year's 55), those tweaks will soon manifest in the show's once-a-week live show.

Historically, American Idol had three hours of live show a week — with two devoted to performance and one to results. This time, as a part of an ongoing effort to slow declining ratings, the once weekly live show will combine the two elements. (Fellow aging competitions So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With the Stars have already followed that model, the latter to some success.)

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Executive producer Trish Kinane was part of the Idol team on hand at the Television Critics Association press tour on Saturday afternoon — and though she was clear that the new run of show is still a work in progress, she knows how it won't look.

"The one thing I can tell you is that we're not going to do the elimination at the top of the show," she said. "We've got some cool ways to incorporate the drama throughout the course of the [episode]. We're actually rather pleased that they're down to one per week. We're going to have all of the drama of an elimination, as well as the performances for America to vote on for the next week. It's going to be jam-packed."

The elephant in the room of any American Idol meeting with press is always the show's shrinking audience. It might be an old story, but it's now part of the iconic series' narrative. And more than most years, producers, executives and talent have been candid about why they think the show took such a tumble over the course of the 2014 season.

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"Why didn't it connect? I think that the show is successful because the sum of all parts," said Ryan Seacrest. "We had some great contestants, but they could have done more in certain aspects to connect more with the audience — and we could have done better."

One way they've tried to convey a renewed effort at showcasing the best personalities in the audition broadcasts has been by teasing out the singers who've already earned a ticket to Hollywood for the live shows.

"We really think we've got great talent, so we really wanted to say up front, 'Listen, America, these are great singers,' " said Kinane. "We didn't want to spoil the additions, so we decided to show the silhouettes and let people hear them singing. What's actually happened has been a game of speculating."