Is ‘American Idol’ Hearing Footsteps from ‘The Voice’?

Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, Randy Jackson and Ryan Seacrest of "American Idol" at the Winter 2012 TCA tour (Getty Images)

Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, Randy Jackson and Ryan Seacrest of "American Idol" at the Winter 2012 TCA tour (Getty Images)

Despite its shrinking audience, “American Idol” is still the king of the television heap. But it’s no longer the only singing competition show around. And while the “Idol” judges and producers pulled their punches when TV critics asked them about their FOX-mates at “The X Factor” today in Pasadena, they got a little bit defensive when the subject came around to “The Voice.”

Of course, “Idol” directly competes with the NBC hit, but you’d think that in their position they wouldn’t be looking over their shoulders. For instance, when the panel was asked about their feelings on the news that “Idol’s” first winner, Kelly Clarkson, will be a mentor on “The Voice” next season, the network’s reality chief, Mike Darnell, pointedly said, “I think it’s a complement to ‘Idol’ that the show has created superstars. We’re not hiring people from ‘The Voice’ to be on our show.”

Bam! Later, judge Randy Jackson took pains to point out that “Voice” champion Javier Colon had already been dropped from major record deals in the past.  “It was like (the show had) second chance people.”

Boom! Want more? Producer Ken Warwick: “We’re the only show that produces stars.”

Ka-Pow! Doesn’t sound like a show that’s secure in its position, does it? When confronted with “The Voice’s” party line that they only feature good singers and don’t bring people on to ridicule them — a not-so-subtle shot at “Idol’s” infamous audition rounds — producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz said that “They cast their show. We actually hold open calls and we document that process.”

The final blow came from Jackson again: “We will definitely never ever rip off ‘Star Trek’ like ‘The Voice’ did with spinning chairs. We won’t stoop that low.”

After the panel, Darnell backtracked a bit. “I think it’s just competitiveness. I think you guys are misreading ‘defensive’ for ‘competitive.'” Darnell hasn’t given the rising popularity of “The Voice” much thought, he says, and went into network executive hyperbole mode about the show.

“Our only job is to make this show the gold standard of these shows and do the best we can with it,” he said. “I know you guys are in a world right now where it’s a year-by-year thing. But someday, you’ll look back and you won’t believe how long this show was on top. You’re in the middle of TV history with this show.”

Other revelations from the panel:

The middle, post-Hollywood rounds will consist of two new challenges this season: one where the contestants will have to harmonize ’50s doo-wop style, and another where the singer is out on stage alone with one instrument.

Ryan Seacrest “Can’t Imagine Life” Without “Idol”

Steven Tyler is recording a new album with Aerosmith. Tyler told the critics that, even though the members of the legendary rock band were skeptical about Tyler’s participation in “Idol” when he took the job last year, the band’s music sales have gone up by over 200 percent.

The contestants’ skill level is higher than ever. The eliminations during the early Hollywood rounds are becoming “extremely difficult,” in Warwick’s words. “Half of those kids five years ago would have won ‘American Idol’.”

Watch a sneak preview of season 11:

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