"American Idol" unveiled its 13th season judging panel at the Boston Marriott Copley Place on Wednesday. And if the early vibe of the trio of Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, and Harry Connick Jr. is to be believed, it will be a much more lighthearted season for the show.
On only their second day as a judging team (auditions were held in Boston on Tuesday and Wednesday), country star Urban (the only holdover from last season), pop diva-actress and returnee-judge Lopez, and smooth crooner newbie Connick fielded questions and poked fun at one another in their first meeting with the press.
Both Lopez and Urban said they were happy to be back. "I did miss it," said Lopez, who sat out last season to go on a world tour. "I don't know what's going to happen but I know we're going to have a great time and we're already off to a great start."
Connick noted that he and Lopez had once appeared on the same episode of "Will & Grace," but that he'd never met Urban before "Idol." Without missing a beat Urban piped up, asking Connick, "Remember that time you were cleaning out the pool in the backyard? During the lean years?"
On the subject of performing together as a "threesome," Connick asked "Are we talking music still?" He went on to say "The idea of us performing together would be phenomenal. You're talking about two of the greatest performers on the planet." Urban added, "And me."
Asked if they had any advice for Connick, Urban jokingly said "Yeah, shut the hell up" with Lopez almost simultaneously saying "Less talking." Jokes aside, Connick, who has appeared twice previously on the show as a mentor, was earnest in his excitement about joining the team. "I'm a fan of the show," he said. "I've seen it for the last 12 years and I feel that the three of us can do our part to make the show as great as we know 'American Idol' can be."
The trio didn't have word on who any of the guest mentors might be when the Fox talent competition returns in January but did say that Randy Jackson would be replacing Jimmy Iovine in the role of permanent in-house mentor.
Lopez wouldn't speculate about whether her return will boost ratings, but said, diplomatically, "The focus is back where it's supposed to be, on the show, and on the contestants and on people having a good time and tuning in for some great entertainment and a few laughs here and there and that emotion that comes along with that ride."
Recently Urban told the Globe that judging with Jackson, Nicki Minaj, and Mariah Carey last season was like working in a band with two chick singers. Asked what kind of band this season's configuration might be, Urban replied, "A great little trio. Harry's the pianist, a very good one. Is it a grand? A baby grand?" Connick replied, "It's an upright."