Harry Connick, Jr. and Jennifer Lopez to join Keith Urban on ‘American Idol’ panel

Fox has confirmed that Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick, Jr. will join Keith Urban on the judging panel for the 13th season of “American Idol.” Lopez has been a judge on the popular television singing contest before. Connick was previously a mentor on the show, coaching and accompanying the singers. Fox also announced other changes to the show’s cast:

Urban’s return to the contest was announced last month by Fox Chairman Kevin Reilly, who said the singer didn’t get a chance to show his personality in his first turn as a judge. Urban appeared overwhelmed last season by the Carey-Minaj crossfire that drew complaints from some viewers.

“I think this season of ‘Idol’ is gonna be a blast,” Urban said in a statement Tuesday. “New team, new energy and a whole new field of artists to be discovered and given a chance!”

Fox also announced that original judge Randy Jackson, who exited along with Carey and Minaj at the end of last season, will be back in a new role as in-house mentor to the contestants. Ryan Seacrest, also part of “Idol” from the start, will again host.

“Surprise, surprise! I am so happy to be back as part of this amazing show that started it all,” said Jackson. “The original talent show is back with a vengeance and ready to discover the best talent in America.”

Record executive Jimmy Iovine had served as mentor in recent seasons. Fox said that Universal Music Group’s Interscope Records, under Iovine’s direction as chairman, will continue to release “Idol” winner and contestant music.

Associated Press

“Idol” has been declining in popularity, and the show’s producers might be hoping that viewers will find the new judging panel more likable:

If you noticed the buzz about this news is considerably smaller than in years past, well, that’s not surprising. First, both names have been rumored for days. And second, “Idol” ratings have been consistently falling; the show suffered its least-watched ever this past spring, when Candice Glover was named the winner.

Anyway, Connick Jr. has finally given in — his name has long been batted around as a potential judge, as he’s appeared on the show before as one of the most compelling celebrity mentors, and genuinely seemed to enjoy his time with the contestants. J-Lo returns for her second stint after playing judge Seasons 10 and 11. She took a break this past year, which featured the most judge-centric season in “Idol” history, as dueling divas Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj made the show all about them, while Keith Urban and Randy Jackson tried to stay out of the way.

Emily Yahr

As a mentor, Connick was more dedicated to the singers than the other celebrities, Lisa de Moraes wrote when he appeared on the show in 2010:

Connick, a.k.a. New Blue Eyes, treated his “Idol” gig as seriously as jury duty, in marked contrast to all those drive-by mentors who spent as little time as possible in the company of the Idolettes, preferring to simply use them as props for album-plugging.. . .

“What I’m trying to do is feature the contestants by writing a supportive arrangement,” Connick said during a taped bit in which he was seen at the ivories, tickling out one of the arrangements for Tuesday’s performance show.

“I should be lying by the pool. Do you think Shania Twain was up in here doing this?” he said, about last week’s phone-it-in mentor. Props to Connick for the first cross-mentor snipe in “Idol” history. And, by the way, for actually watching the show and knowing who was the previous week’s mentor -- you think quasi-mentor Usher knew he followed quasi-mentor Miley Cyrus? Me neither.

The five down-to-the-wire Idolettes -- Aaron Kelly, Casey James, Michael Lynche, Crystal Bowersox and Lee DeWyze -- couldn’t stop talking about how funny, helpful, available and downright heroic Connick was, after that steady trail of see-ya-wouldn’t-wanna-be-ya mentors to whom they’d been subjected.

Lisa de Moraes

To see past “Idol” judges, use the gallery below.

Max Ehrenfreund is a blogger on the Financial desk and writes for Know More and Wonkblog.
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