Hey Randy Jackson; “Idol” Got You Back Dawg

With the presidential election less than sixty days away, some are taking advantage of the flip-flop; perhaps thinking no one will notice. But when you’re as big as “American Idol” is, it could only serve as wishful thinking. So let’s see; at first Randy Jackson was rumored to remain an “Idol” judge, than he was rumored to be moving into a mentorship role, now he’s back for season 12 given the familiar task of judging contestants. I guess you might say, “Idol’s” got you back dawg, or do they really.

The last minute return of Jackson comes after talks broke off with singing star Enrique Iglesias, according to resent reports.

Jackson was always expected to remain on “Idol” in some capacity — but as speculation about Iglesias heated up in recent weeks, it looked like Jackson might segue into a mentoring role on the show (similar to what music exec Jimmy Iovine already does on “Idol”). But sources say the “Idol” producers and Iglesias remained far apart on a deal (one source said Iglesias was asking for a salary in the eight-figure range), which is why Jackson was ultimately called back to judge duty. (According to one source, Minaj is expected to pull down around $10 million, while Urban is likely to make around $4 million.)

Jackson was instrumental in helping bring Carey (whom he co-manages) to “Idol,” which is why his participation on the show in some capacity was never in doubt. But it wasn’t clear until Monday what Jackson’s role would ultimately be. The news was first hinted at earlier in the day by Jackson’s former “Idol” colleague Simon Cowell who Tweeted, “Just heard Randy is back on ‘Idol’. Right decision.”

Jackson’s return gives “Idol” a bit of continuity in the face of another judges’ panel overhaul, along with the return of host Ryan Seacrest and return of executive producer Nigel Lythgoe. With Carey, Jackson, Minaj and Urban, the show is also returning to a four-judge panel, something it last tried in the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

TMZ first reported that Jackson was out for season 12. The website says that Jackson, the only “Idol” cast member other than host Ryan Seacrest to have an on-air role since season one, will transition to a mentor role in season 12. Though it’s not official yet it appears we won’t be seeing the “dawg” no more.

Now this was not an error, because “Idol” execs were working overtime with their plan to replace Jackson; but it just didn’t work out.

It was “American Idol” that propelled Jackson into the mainstream.

Jackson has since expanded into television production, setting up his Dream Merchant 21 Entertainment banner at Warner Horizon Television and launching the hit reality-competition series “Randy Jackson Presents: America’s Best Dance Crew,” which recently completed its fifth season.

With Jackson back, the show wisely has kept a measure of familiarity.

How much does it matter who the judges are? After all, the show has cycled through plenty of them over the years.

One could make the case that Jackson’s exit could benefit the show. Many longtime fans could fairly well predict by now what he would say. Fresh judges, fresh insights? But it would have been a big gamble.

In any case, American Idol may be eventually ready for a major makeover; just not this year.

Though last year’s season finale, with Jessica Sanchez vs. Phil Phillips, had the smallest audience of any American Idol finale; even smaller than the first American Idol finale which aired in the slower summer months, the higher ups perhaps believe they have shaken things up enough.

American Idol remains a cash cow for Fox. It pulls in about $500,000 for a 30-second commercial, and it remains one of the biggest draws on TV, despite a decline in audience in recent years. But few blame the cast of judges as responsible for the decline. Most observers say the ebb is a result of a combination of audience fatigue and the rise of copycat competition, especially, the arrival of Simon Cowell’s “X-Factor” and NBC’s “The Voice.”

Advertisers note a decline in the coveted demographic audience of 18-49 year olds. This past year, American Idol had an average of 7.5 million in that demographic. “The Voice,” is now nipping at the heels of Idol with 7.2 million viewers in that demographic on a typical night, notes The New York Times.

So far, Randy, and singer-songwriter Mariah Carey has signed on for Season 12. Niki Minaj and country signer Keith Urban should be under contract shortly. If this is the panel, it would certainly represent an eclectic mix of experience and music genres.

TMZ sources as with Billboard also indicate the Minaj deal is “99% done” despite a reported beef between the rapper and Carey.  The gossip site says Carey “doesn’t want her at the table … a fact producers love because they think the conflict and tension will be good for the show.”

Last month the youngest Jonas brother tweeted, “The rumors are true… I am being considered to be a judge on American Idol, and it would be a-dream-come true if it happens.” Looks like his dream won’t come true, as least for this year.

For most “Idol” fans, it will probably be refreshing for them to learn that Randy Jackson is back, as least for right now, unless they execs change their minds again. If they are, they’re going to have to hurry because flip-flop season is almost over.

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