American Idol: Three Reasons Why They Did the Right Thing With Returning Judges

Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. will all be back for the next season of American Idol .

Surprised? You should be. The show had the worst rating in its history last season — the UrbLoNick panel’s first — with a 28 percent drop among adults in the 18-49 age group. And yet, my gut tells me the show’s decision-makers are doing the absolute best thing for the future.

(Mainly because I don’t think the ratings plummet had anything to do with the judges. I have my theories on what went wrong, but today’s news is about what went right.)

1. Judges’ chemistry: Maybe it shouldn’t matter, but it does. The UrbLoNick panel is what makes the show watchable when things get too boring, too absurd or too “been-there-heard-that” with the contestants. Each judge brings something cool to the table, but it’s the combo platter of the three together that makes the whole greater than the sum of their parts. And their easy rapport with one another never seems forced or fake.

2. Genre representation: American Idol can churn out singers in every single genre like nobody else. And I think that’s due in part to the wide range of genres sitting at that table at every episode — last season, especially, with country, dance, big band and more.

3. A new reality: Together, these three judges make reality television seem downright old school. At a time when there are more reality shows than fictional shows — and that reality is getting worse every day — American Idol has reinvented itself bit by bit and has ended up on really solid ground. At least as long as UrbLoNick stay at the table.