American Idol: Harry Connick Jr. On Joining As A Judge, Producers On Randy Jackson’s Mentor Role

Harry Connick Jr. will make his “American Idol” judging debut later this week, and on Monday, the singer and musician told TV critics he has been a fan of the show from the start..

“I remember being at the first finale when Kelly Clarkson won. I was shooting ‘Will & Grace,’ and Debra Messing said, ‘Do you want to go to the finale?’ and I did because I was a huge fan of the show,” Harry told reporters on Monday during the Fox portion of the Television Critics Association Winter Tour 2014, in Pasadena. “I’ve watched it every year religiously since. I really do love it.”

Harry said mentoring contestants previously on the show is something that he enjoyed doing.

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“I think it was Season 9 that they asked me to come and do some mentoring, and I grew up in that environment. I grew up with teachers watching you and critiquing you a lot tougher than anything you’ll see on this show, by the way, and I love that kind of environment,” Harry continued. “Then, I did it again last year, and I had a blast. I love the idea of fostering talent. The only frustrating thing about being a judge is that that’s not really what the job is. That’s what Randy [Jackson] gets to do, and he’s going to be amazing at it, by the way. But just to be able to have a dialogue about music and entertainment and career in this business is so stimulating to me. I just love it.”

During the panel, Jennifer Lopez also addressed her return to the show.

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“I never planned to do the show for more than a year, and I did it for two years because I just loved it so much. And then, after that, when they asked me to come back for the third year, I was like, ‘I really have some things, other things I have to do.’ And it was just one of those tough decisions that I had to make, and I wound up touring the world for the first time and… producing ‘The Fosters’ and doing a bunch of other things that I’m glad I did take the time to do,” she said. “When they asked me back this year, the decision was just as difficult because of the time frame, but somehow we were able to juggle and work it out with my schedule, and I’m glad I did because I’m is having a great time.”

In addition to comments from the judges, one of the show’s producers explained more about Randy Jackson’s new role as mentor.

“We’ve listened to the viewers, and they told us that they were fed up with the middle rounds. They went on and on and on and on after Hollywood Week and before the live shows, and they want to get to know the contestants earlier. So we’ve shortened all of that down. We’ve condensed the middle rounds into one week, which is a Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday round. We’re calling it ‘Rush Week,’ and that’s where we’re going to introduce some of the Randy Jackson workshop stuff,” Executive Producer Trish Kinane said. “There’s a new round at the beginning of Hollywood Week which is a fresh, surprise new round. And into the live shows, there will be new refreshments as well. I think the thing to say about all of them is it’s still absolutely ‘American Idol.’ There’s nothing where you go, ‘Oh, my God. What have they all done here?’ It’s all ‘Idol,’ but it’s a million of these little, tiny decisions and little refreshments that I think have made a fresher whole.”

“American Idol” premieres Wednesday, January 15 at 8 PM ET/PT on Fox.

-- Jolie Lash

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