After months of rumors and speculation, Fox has finally made it official: Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban will make up the American Idol judges panel.
The announcement comes days after it was rumored that music producer Dr. Luke (Lukasz Gottwald) would be joining the reality-television behemoth as a judge and months after rapper Nicki Minaj and diva Mariah Carey got the boot from the franchise in the face of sagging ratings.
Country singer Keith Urban will be the sole judge returning from the show’s beleaguered twelfth season, where the judges’ in-fighting seemed to get more camera time than the cast of all-female finalists. In addition to Connick, Urban will be joined by Lopez, who was a judge on the series in 2011 and 2012 and returned as a guest performer last season.
Connick is a former Idol mentor who received great audience feedback after his honest, helpful and friendly critiques of last season’s contestants. “I have always been a huge fan of American Idol and really enjoyed my time as a mentor on the show,” he said in a statement on Monday. “And I am honored that they’ve asked me to be a judge this season. As an entertainer, I am truly excited to bring my perspective to American Idol, and to help emerging performers find their way.”
With the addition of Connick to the judges’ table, this season will mark the first time in Idol history that the show’s judging panel is exclusively performers, without an industry voice weighing in as well. (It’s unclear whether this is Idol producers attempting to challenge The Voice, the NBC singing show where stars groom contestants; a by-product of judge juggling; or, perhaps, both.)
In other Idol news, rumors of long-time Idol stalwart Randy Jackson’s departure from the show were premature. While Jackson will no longer be seated at the judges’ table, he will still be on the show, moving into the mentor role previously held by Jimmy Iovine. Ryan Seacrest will also be returning to his job as host.
The reality show also shook things up behind-the-scenes with longtime Idol executive producers Nigel Lythogoe and Ken Warwick leaving the show, along with the departure of Mike Darnell, head of Fox’s reality department.