Earlier this week, ABC announced upcoming auditions for the "American Idol" reboot, tentatively scheduled to launch early next year. But if that gave you the impression that everything is going swimmingly, the Hollywood Reporter just published a big Ryan Seacrest profile, packed with details about his disastrous negotiation to return as "Idol" host after 15 seasons on the Fox series.
It's one of several signs that don't look promising for the return of the hit singing competition show. Here's what has happened since ABC officially confirmed that "Idol" will be back.
The Seacrest situation
After ABC won the rights to reboot "Idol," the network was going to make a splashy announcement at its upfront presentation in May to confirm Seacrest as host, according to THR. Except executives actually used the occasion to declare that pop star Katy Perry had just signed on as a new judge.
As it turns out, producers from Fremantle North America had offered Perry an absurd $25 million salary - and then returned to Seacrest with an offer that was lower than what he made on the show the first time. As THR put it, "Shock quickly turned to anger: Was this what 15 years of service got him?" and Seacrest's reps said he was no longer interested.
After some ABC damage control and an increased salary offer (a total of more than $10 million), it looks like Seacrest will probably sign on, THR reports. But it's certainly not a good public look for the show.
Kelly Clarkson defected to NBC
Last month, journalist Richard Rushfield - who wrote a book about "Idol" - reported why producers threw $25 million at Perry: They panicked after losing Clarkson, one of "Idol's" best success stories and its first-season winner, as a judge. Rushfield said Clarkson was the first choice, but before she signed a contract, NBC's "The Voice" offered her much more money to be a coach and she promptly jumped ship.
"Given that the entire point of the 'Idol' reset had been to come back with a more cost effective package than the pricey range the show had drifted up into in the Fox era, securing some first rate but affordable judicial help was paramount," Rushfield wrote in his newsletter, adding that ABC would likely have to offer Seacrest something close to Perry. "If the budget of the show then starts at $45/50 million just for two cast members, before a dime has been spent producing the show, prospects for making this a cost effective endeavor start to fade quickly, particularly on an already floundering ABC network."
Katy Perry's very sad press tour
Who could have predicted that Perry, one of the world's most famous pop stars, would go on a such a sad promo run for her new album, "Witness"? At first, she earned a ton of headlines about her feud with Taylor Swift - which she discussed over and over and over again - but it soon went from "juicy gossip" to "can we just stop talking about this?"
She launched an odd, four-day live stream. She was mocked for her bizarre "Saturday Night Live" performance. Then the album was largely panned by critics and out-streamed by Swift, who released all of her music on Spotify at the same moment "Witness" dropped last Friday. Sure, the album will debut at No. 1, and Perry still has a loyal fanbase. But will her fans be drowned out by the mockery? And is she still powerful enough to help get big ratings that justify her enormous salary?
Rival networks agree it sounds like a bad idea
During upfront week, ABC's rival network executives questioned the idea of bringing back "Idol" in the first place. Sure, maybe they're just bitter because they didn't land the show. But they made some good points, like the fact that the series hasn't been gone long enough for people to miss it (it ended in April 2016).
"It would be extremely fraudulent to bring the show back quickly, that our fans would not appreciate being told one thing and then have the show brought back right away," said Fox Television Group Chief Executive Dana Walden. She said it "feels bad" knowing that the show, so connected with the Fox brand, is on a new network, but Fremantle didn't want to make changes and the show was far too expensive to keep on the air.
CBS Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves made a similar point about the show's astronomical cost: "I'm not trying to knock ABC, the economics made no sense for us."