'American Idol' at TCA: 'Putting the 'Fun' Back in Dysfunction'

The Hollywood Reporter
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Is 'American Idol' Judges Feud Real or for Show? Steven Tyler, Cee Lo Green, Nick Cannon Weigh In

American Idol officially kicked off on Tuesday morning at the 2013 TCA in Pasadena. That's where new judges Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban took the stage to face the critics -- and there were plenty of them: those who had stuck by the show for more than a decade, hoping to find the next superstar, as its tagline boldly stated.

This year, the slogan has changed to "Everyone Dreams, Idol Delivers," but where the press was concerned: the new batch of contestants take a backseat to the drama of the judges' panel.  

Indeed, it took about three questions before the much-blogged about "feud" was mentioned. The two who clashed --  Carey and Minaj -- smiled some, deflected a lot, but in the end, had a couple of nice things to say about each other. 

"This is a very passionate panel, there are a lot of strong personalities," said Carey who noted that at the start of the process it became clear that there could be "differences of opinion." As for the North Carolina rumble, which leaked out via cell phone video, "The fighting is what it is," Carey continued. "This is American Idol -- it's bigger than all that. It's bigger than some stupid trumped-up thing."

That's not to say that anything about the clash was staged. In fact, Fox president of alternative programming Mike Darnell went out of his way to emphasize, "It's authentic." Added executive producer Nigel Lythgoe: "Two of them were always angry." And FremantleMedia's Trish Kinane pointed out that the Idol audience was asking -- even begging -- the producers for one thing above all else: "They told us they wanted honesty," she said.

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With that in mind, Minaj and Carey were both asked to say something nice about each other. Minaj went first: "I say nice things about Mariah all the time, she's one of my favorite artists of all-time she's really shaped a generation of singers. To be on a panel with her, it's kind of crazy because these singers aspire to be a Mariah Carey. So I feel excited to see them so excited." 

Replied Carey, pointing out that the two of them worked together early in Minaj's career: "That was obviously a sweet thing to say. .. I know and feel that she's going to go very far and am grateful for anything nice that she or anyone says about me."

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But when it comes to their jobs: finding promising talent and launching a music career, they take that responsibility very seriously and it shows. Perhaps no better example was offered than when Minaj recounted her own experiences watching the show at home. "I didn't like when people would be overtly passive," she said. "We're here to do a job. I don't put someone through because of a great story or because there's something going on that may make people cry. ... I didn't really have a problem saying no because we're looking for the best of the best. It brothers me when someone says yes and don't deserve it." 

Hallelujah to that! But in the end, it was Mariah Carey who nailed the Idol dynamic in one punchline: "We're putting the 'fun' back in dysfunction."

Twitter: @shirleyhalperin

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