'American Idol' notes: 'The Four' preview, Ryan Seacrest, Carrie Underwood

Posted Thursday, January 4, 2018 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

I'm going to pay some attention to 'The Four" because it's new and it's basically what Fox is hoping will take over for "American Idol." It debuts Thursday night, January 4, at 8 p..m.

I spoke with executive producer David George, who worked a decade on "TRL" and has produced shows such as "Pawn Stars" and "Alone." He hopes the new music reality competition show will find an audience seeking a fresh angle on the concept.

The first episode starts with four performers - Latino singer  Elanese Lansen ,  Blair Perkins ,  Ash Minor  and rapper  Alexis “Lex Lu” Boyd. They are part of  "The Four."   Challengers will audition and if the four judges unanimously like him or her, that singer will get to select which of the existing "Four" to take on in a direct battle. On the first episode, there's some light smack talking between the singers before each sang. 

If the audience (not the viewers) decides the new person does a better job, he or she takes a new spot on the Four.  

"It's the only show where every episode is like a finale!" host Fergie said up front in the first episode.

Fox aired a short five-minute preview:

George  also hopes the four diverse panelists - music label exec Charlie Walk (Lorde, the Script, the Fray, Sean Kingston), songwriter Meghan Trainor, mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs and producer DJ Khaled - will be able to find a winner they can truly groom into a superstar. As he noted, "The Voice" has yet to generate a big star and it's been many years since "Idol" has created one.

"It's the 'Eight Mile' battle show of music competition," George said. And the judge panelists are tough. During the first episode, they don't sugarcoat things when they don't feel either singer in a battle brought it. "It's gotta be greater," Khaled said to two singers. "I'm not happy with either one of y'all," added Diddy. (Trainor appears to be the relative softie, which isn't a surprise, and she even tears up before an R&B singer.)

Diddy to another woman who I liked who covered a Lorde song: "I didn't like it one bit. What are we here to do? We are here to take somebody's spot. It just wasn't a great performance." Khaled wasn't much nicer. Walk loved her and insisted she be given a chance to compete against the Four. (She didn't get it.)

"I want greatness now!" Diddy yelped at one point.

Another potential advantage: IHeartMedia, the largest radio company, will promote the winning artist through its "On the Verge" artist development program and air its songs on its radio stations.

THE FOUR: BATTLE FOR STARDOM: L-R: Charlie Walk, Meghan Trainor, Sean “Diddy” Combs and DJ Khaled in the “Week One” two-hour series premiere episode of FOX’s all-new singing competition series, THE FOUR: BATTLE FOR STARDOM airing Thursday, Jan. 4 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. CR: Ray Mickshaw / FOX. © 2018 FOX Broadcasting.

The music mix based on the first four is more pop, alternative, Latin and R&B/hip hop than other shows, where there was more country and classic rock. It's clearly targeting a younger audience than the two standard bearers. You won't be hearing anyone sing Motown. Rather, the performers stick with mostly current tunes.

Note: watch for a Ruben Studdard-like R&B singer named Saeed Renaud near the end of the two-hour premiere. He's impressive.

George said the six-episode, 12-hour run is a bit of a test run and he hopes if it's a success, Fox will give them more hours the next round.

There is an "Idol" connection: Rickey Minor will lead the band for the show.

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NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 08: Co-host Carrie Underwood speaks onstage at the 51st annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on November 8, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

On New Year's Day, Carrie Underwood revealed that the fall outside her home in November was even worse than when she broke her wrist: she had surgery that involved 40 to 50 stitches on her face!

Wow! What a fall!

“E ven though I’ve had the best people helping me, I’m still healing and not quite looking the same,” she wrote to her fan club. “ I honestly don’t know how things are going to end up but I do know this: I am grateful. I am grateful that it wasn’t much, much worse. And I am grateful for the people in my life that have been there every step of the way.”

“I had no idea she got hurt prior to meeting her,” Gang, 34, told Us Weekly on Tuesday. “She had a wrist brace on, but I didn’t think much of it until I saw the headlines after I posted our picture together. I didn’t notice anything amiss on her face. Simply, she looked lovely. She was extremely friendly and gracious.”

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NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 31: Ryan Seacrest speaks onstage with Sugarland at the Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2018 on December 31, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for dick clark productions)

Ryan Seacrest is now a fashion mogul, selling $50 million in clothing a year, according to an extensive Business of Fashion profile.

He began selling Ryan Seacrest distinction clothing at Macy's four years ago and it's been a success. He is selling suits and athletic wear.

Between the fashion line and a new men’s skincare range that soft-launched in the autumn, Seacrest is carefully parlaying his on-camera success into branded products for men by leveraging his public platforms, likability factor and network of connections.

From Seacrest’s perspective, the goal was to appeal to the modern man whose schedule might rival his own. “My life involves velocity and moving from one thing to the next… whether that be professional or social,” he says. “Because that is part of our DNA, it perhaps appeals to a younger customer that's living this lifestyle.”

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Speaking of Seacrest, ABC used his New Year's special to promote "Idol."

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Clay Aiken Tweet of the week:

About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
I cover local radio and TV for both the print and online editions. I write a blog on the same topics.Rodney Ho's Radio & TV Talk blog (new) | Recent archiveSports...
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