January 16th, 2014
12:06 PM ET
Harry Connick Jr. has managed to give "American Idol" something the show desperately needed - good buzz - but he hasn't been able to lift the reality singing competition out of its sad ratings slump.
The series returned for its 13th season on Wednesday with 15 million tuning in and a 4.6 rating in the adult demographic - enough to help "Idol" dominate the ratings on Wednesday but still a drop nonetheless. According to EW, Wednesday's episode was the lowest-rated premiere in "Idol's" history.
But at least "Idol" execs can hope that Connick will help turn things around. The musician was met with a largely mixed response when Fox announced he and Jennifer Lopez were going to replace former judges Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey, but Connick managed to win over his critics during the premiere.
To begin with, he's actually funny. "Idol" fans have gotten used to Jennifer Lopez's charm and Keith Urban's mellow approach, but Connick was an unknown. On the first episode, he set a tone that everyone instantly fell in love with: witty, but still serious about cultivating only the top talent.
Prime example: When one contestant, Munfarid Zaidi,proved himself to be a superfan, Connick promised that if Zaidi blew the judges' minds with his first song, he'd pick the contestant up like a baby.
A crazy promise, but Connick made good on it after Zaidi earned a ticket to Hollywood with his rendition of Adele's "Crazy For You."
The best part of the scene isn't just seeing Connick awkwardly holding a 19-year-old fan, but the reactions of his fellow judges. Who knows what else the season has in store, but Wednesday's premiere was blessedly tension-free.
Add to that Connick's deep knowledge of music, which he's able to use to say exactly why a performance did or didn't work, and you have a judge who "almost single-handedly brought a sense of fun back to 'American Idol,'" says Variety's TV critic Brian Lowry. "Whether spoofing his lack of celebrity relative to Jennifer Lopez or clowning with Keith Urban, there’s an easy camaraderie among the judges that should make the show better company."
By the time the premiere was over, several fans were pleasantly surprised.
"The Idol premiere tonight - I am not lying - is sort of ... delightful," tweeted NPR's Linda Holmes. "Oh, man. That is a curve ball from the universe."
What'd you think of the premiere?
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