'American Idol': Don't expect bad auditions on the ABC version

What almost seemed like a hallucination in 2017 is now a fast-approaching reality. American Idol, the most popular show on television for a large chunk of this still-young century, is returning to the airwaves on March 11 on ABC two years after it was canceled by Fox. And, per producers and stars, it's not changing (with one small caveat).

ABC trotted out the cast of its revived Idol for the first time on Monday (Jan. 8) at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour, posting up Ryan Seacrest and company for reporters — many of whom expressed skepticism about the timing of the reboot. Seacrest seemed to share their concerns. The returning host offered up his thoughts on why the last few seasons of the Fox version didn't produce any breakout talent and why that's such a priority this time around.

"What was important to me [about the reboot] was that there were going to be stars on the show that were going to come on to collaborate and take this seriously and give the franchise what it deserves," he told one TV critic. "The legacy of this franchise is important to me and to its fans."

The question of finding breakout talent, the way Idol did for so many years, was a more dominant thread in the conversation than ones about ratings and singing-show fatigue. Katy Perry, the show's $25 million marquee judge, referred to it as her top priority.

"Literally, we are wasting our time if we are not finding another star," said Perry. "I take it very seriously, sometimes to my detriment."

25 PHOTOS
'American Idol' Season 4: Then and Now
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'American Idol' Season 4: Then and Now
The 'American Idol' cast gets wild at the Season 4 Top 12 Finalists Party. Some really puzzling fashion choices here -- even for 2005!

Carrie Underwood: THEN

Carrie Underwood: NOW

More than ten years after taking the 'Idol' crown, she's the bonafide queen of country music.

Jessica Sierra: THEN

Jessica Sierra: NOW

After long-fought battles with drug and alcohol abuse, Jessica was eventually sentenced to a year in rehab. She now has a child of her own and speaks to kids about the dangers of substance abuse.

Anwar Robinson: THEN

Anwar Robinson: NOW

The dreads are gone! He's a music educator and creative arts advocate.

Mikalah Gordon: THEN

Mikalah Gordon: NOW

She has a standing gig every night singing at Las Vegas' Cosmopolitan Hotel. A new web series based on her life premieres this year.

Constantine Maroulis: THEN

Constantine Maroulis: NOW

He's snagged a number of leading Broadway roles, including the title role in "Jekyll and Hyde."

Lindsey Cardinale: THEN

Lindsey Cardinale: NOW

She still makes and performs new music.

Anthony Fedorov: THEN

Anthony Fedorov: NOW

How's that for a makeover? He still makes music and is a proud father. 

Nadia Turner: THEN

Nadia Turner: NOW

Gorgeous!

Bo Bice: THEN

Bo Bice: NOW

Pretty crazy transformation! The rocker continues to make music and recently had a string of shows in Hawaii.

Vonzell Solomon: THEN

Vonzell Solomon: NOW

More like va-va-Vonzell!

Scott Savol: THEN

Scott Savol: NOW

He's mostly kept a low profile since the show.

Nikko Smith: THEN

Nikko Smith: NOW

Still killing the stage!

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"That makes us work harder as a judging panel," added Luke Bryan, when no one onstage could immediately name an American Idol winner from its last few seasons on Fox. "Because there are a few years where you don't remember those contestants, we don't want it to go that way. We want it to go right back to what it was known for."

One thing Idol was known for was its mocking of bad singers during the early audition rounds, an aspect famously rebuked by NBC's The Voice when it premiered in 2011 and ultimately stole Idol's thunder. Showrunner Trish Kinane said that would no longer be the case, though she was also quick to note the original version of the show had leaned away from that in its later years.

"It doesn't feel comfortable to put borderline unstable people up on stage and laugh at them," said Kinane. To her point, reality television has largely evolved past the kind of personality profiteering and audiences are savvier about how people get on camera.

"I think that people once thought that the judges saw everyone, and now you know there's a line of producers who screen before them," the showrunner added, noting that there is still room for the stray eccentric. "We want the humor, but we don't want the exploitation."

37 PHOTOS
Original 'American Idol' judges together
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Original 'American Idol' judges together
The Judges, Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson at FOX TV's 'American Idol', broadcast live from Television City in Los Angeles, Ca. Tuesday, July 16, 2002. Photo by Kevin Winter/ImageDirect/FOX*** Please Call For Usage ***
(Left to right) FOX's American Idol judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson pse peaceably at the FOX 2002 SummerTCA Tour at the Huntington Ritz Carlton Hotel in Pasadena, CA on Monday, July 22, 2002. Photo credit: Kevin Winter/ImageDirect
Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson at 'The Teen Choice Awards 2002' at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles, Ca. Sunday, August 4, 2002. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images/FOX.
Ryan Seacrest, Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, Justin Guarini, Paula Abdul, and Kelly Clarkson of American Idol backstage at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, August 29, 2002. Photo by Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect.
American Idol Judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson on stage at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, August 29, 2002. Photo by Scott Gries/ImageDirect.
Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul & Randy Jackson (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul & Simon Cowell during 'American Idol' Season 1 Finale - Results Show - Arrivals at Kodak Theater in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 2447 -- Pictured: (l-r) American Idol judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell during an interview with host Jay Leno on March 10, 2003 -- (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell during 'American Idol' Season 2 Finale - Results Show at Universal Amphitheatre in Universial City, California, United States. (Photo by Ray Mickshaw/WireImage)
Ryan Seacrest, Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, and Paula Abdul (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 16: 'American Idol' Judges (L-R) Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul during the FOX Television Critics Association Press Tour on January 16, 2004 at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel in Hollywood, CA. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 10: Idol judges Simon Cowell (L), Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson (R) arrive at Fox's celebration of Americn Idols Top 12 finalists at Pearl on March 10, 2004 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, and Randy Jackson during 'American Idol' Season 3 - Top 12 Finalists Party - Arrivals at Pearl in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
Paula Abdul , Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson during The Lucky/Cargo Club - An Upfront Week Hospitality Suite - Day 3 at Le Parker Meridien in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/WireImage)
Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell (Photo by Ray Mickshaw/WireImage)
Randy Jackson, Ryan Seacrest, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell **EXCLUSIVE** ***Exclusive*** (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell (Photo by Jean-Paul Aussenard/WireImage)
WESTWOOD, CA - APRIL 02: (L-R) Ryan Seacrest, Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul of American Idol accept their award for 'Favorite TV Show' onstage at the 18th Annual Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards at the UCLA Pauley Pavillion on April 2nd, 2005 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson during Nickelodeon's 18th Annual Kids Choice Awards - Press Room at Pauley Pavillion in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD - APRIL 20: Television host Ryan Seacrest poses with American Idol judges (L-R) Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson, after receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on April 20, 2005 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul, judges, with songwriters Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, and Ryan Seacrest, host (Photo by Ray Mickshaw/WireImage)
(EXCLUSIVE, Premium Rates Apply) Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell, judges (Photo by Ray Mickshaw/WireImage)
Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell (Photo by Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES - MAY 24: Idol Judges Randy Jackson (L), Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell (R) pose at the 'American Idol' final performance show at the Kodak Theatre on May 24, 2005 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 3077-- Pictured: (l-r) American Idol judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, and Paula Abdul during an interview on January 16, 2006 -- (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
(EXCLUSIVE, Premium Rates Apply) 'American Idol' Season 6 - Judges, Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell *EXCLUSIVE* (Photo by FOX/WireImage for Fox)
Randy Jackson, Ryan Seacrest, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell (Photo by Denise Truscello/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 01: American Idol television personalities (L-R) Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell attend the 24th Annual William S. Paley television festival at the Directors Guild on March 1, 2007 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Chad Buchanan/Getty Images)
Television personalities Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell arrive at the The 59th Primetime EMMY Awards TV Guide After Party at Les Deux on September 16, 2007 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Mark Sullivan/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 06: ***EXCLUSIVE ACCESS*** American Idol judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell onstage during elimination from competition on American Idol Top 12 show, March 6, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by R Mickshaw/American Idol 2008/Getty Images for Fox)
HOLLYWOOD - APRIL 06: (L-R) Americian Idol personalities Ryan Seacrest, Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson, and Simon Cowell arrive at the taping of Idol Gives Back held at the Kodak Theatre on April 6, 2008 in Hollywood, California. Idol Gives Back will air April 9, 2008 (7:30-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 11: ***EXCLUSIVE ACCESS*** (L-R) Judge Simon Cowell, judge Randy Jackson with socialite Kim Kardashian, sister Kourtney Kardashian, judge Paula Abdul and Kris Kardashian are seen in audience watching American Idol March 11, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. The top 12 contestants perform in front of the American Idol judges on Fox. (Photo by R Mickshaw/American Idol 2008/Getty Images for Fox)
HOLLYWOOD - APRIL 06: (L-R) American Idol judge Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell onstage during the taping of Idol Gives Back held at the Kodak Theatre on April 6, 2008 in Hollywood, California. Idol Gives Back will air April 9, 2008 (7:30-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - AUGUST 26: (L-R) American Idol Judges Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson attend auditions for 'American Idol' season 8 at Chelsea Piers on August 26, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 3: ***EXCLUSIVE ACCESS*** (L-R) Judges Randy Jackson, Kara DioGuardi, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell speak on American Idol March 3, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. The third 12 of the top 36 perform in front of the American Idol judges on Fox. (Photo by M Becker/American Idol 2009/Getty Images for Fox)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 07: (L-R) Season 1 judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell speak onstage during FOX's 'American Idol' Finale For The Farewell Season at Dolby Theatre on April 7, 2016 in Hollywood, California. at Dolby Theatre on April 7, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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