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'American Idol' overhaul -- online voting, mentors and 'Real World' antics

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New "American Idol" judges Steven Tyler, second from right, and Jennifer Lopez, second from left, appear with returning judge Randy Jackson and host Ryan Seacrest. (Sept. 22, 2010) Photo Credit: Fox

It seems producers of “American Idol” are worried about this first Simon-less season – so worried, in fact, that they are planning wholesale changes and tested out all sorts of crazy theories.
    
There are so many changes for the show, which kicks off Jan. 19 on Fox, that it will practically be a whole new show.
    
According to The Hollywood Reporter, which has the full rundown on the changes in this week's issue on newsstands today, voting will be different (an online component), mentors (including Rodney Jerkins, Timbaland, Ron Fair, and Alex Da Kid) will help contestants with song selection and orchestration, and original songs will be allowed.
    
These are all changes to help create an artist who is more of a package – which is helpful to the record companies since apparently songs will be released throughout the season, possibly even accompanied by music videos. It means that savvy arrangers who were also strong singers, like David Cook or Adam Lambert, will have much less of an advantage over the rest of the field. It also means that this season is more likely to produce the next Ke$ha instead of the next Kelly Clarkson. Hmm.
    
These changes go along with the previously announced new judges – Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler – and the decision to have all the finalists live in a house together.
    
One change that didn't happen, though, was a sort of “Idol All-Stars,” where previous winners would compete against each other and other finalists. Most of the “Idol” stars weren't that interested. Wonder why?
    
It seems “American Idol” producers have forgotten that they're on the No. 1 show on TV instead of some basic cable reality show. A show this big shouldn't be testing out the tricks of “Top Chef” or “Real World Road Rules: Cutthroat,” should it? Can a “Jersey Shore” theme week or “Teen Mom” storyline be far off?

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