Cecile Frot-Coutez, executive producer of American Idol, talked last week about tonight’s (Wednesday) Idol Gives Back show which will be part of the April 21 (8-10 p.m.) elimination show.
This year it will be part of the competititon show rather than standing alone by itself.
Following is part of what Frot-Coutez had to say:
Can you talk a little bit about how Idol Gives Back will be worked into an elimination show and how you guys decided to work it into an elimination show.
CF: “We’ve done Idol Gives Back twice, three years ago and two years ago and we did it both ways. The first time we did it was an extended results show – like we are doing this year – and the second time we did a separate episode. We found it worked better for us to do an extended results show. Make it more organic to American Idol than a separate show. Wtih two hours you have time to cover both events – the charity portion of the show and the results. It’s a blend of both – the entertainment portion and the Idol competition.”
So someone will be eliminated next week?
CF: “Right. Absolutely.”
So, you put it with an elimination cause the ratings are better that way.
CF: “The comptetition shows work better than the specials. Because, economically this has been a tough year for this country and other countries around the world we are going into the 3rd Idol Gives Back with a slightly different approach. It did incredibly well the first two times. They raised an incredibly amount of money, but we are very aware that this time the circumstances are very, very different than when we first started doing this. That’s another reason why we are doing it in an extended results show and in a low-key way other than the way we did it.”
So, will it be part of the show that you don’t have to donate big bucks, like David Cook said, you can donate 5 or 10 bucks?
CF: “That’s exactly right. Much more low-key. Whatever people will donate will be great. We realize that we can’t go into this with the same expectations.”
You have young and old performers scheduled for the show this year. So, is the idea for Idol Gives Back to try to appeal to everyone to give this year. To appeal to a broader demographics?
CF: “That’s always been the case. Our show is a very broad show. When you have a show like Idol you have to appeal to a broad demo. When we booked people we didn’t think about their broad demo. We invited groups who were excited about performing and entertaining.”
How are the various charities selected for the show?
CF: “Historically, it goes 50 percent to Africa and 50 percent to the U.S. This year it will be weighted more toward domestic causes. It is an American show. It’s been a very difficult two years and it’s only fair that we focus on this country. Kids, poverty and health are the areas we have focused on from the beginning when we started.”
Why didn’t you do this show last year?
CF: “We have found that every other year is about right for the amount of donations we need. By doing it every year that would diminish the impact of it. And if you look at other models of this they do it every two years. And was one of the things we learned from Comic Reief is that we should try to avoid doing it every single year.
Do you think that pattern of every other year will continue for Idol Gives Back?
CF: “I don’t know yet. We don’t have a strategic plan. I can’t absolutely say it will be in two years.”
Can you give us a snapshot of what it takes to put this show together. Like how far out you have to start planning?
CF: “It is a huge undertaking especially when at the same time you are doing the television show with the same team. The drain on resources is quite considerable. That’s another reason why we don’t do it every year because it would probably kill everybody. We start discussing this last summer. Talking about what time of year we would do it, the charities, the principles involved. Then we really start to gear up for it in the fall.”
Can you give us an idea of someone who might provide an emotional impact on the show this year?
CF: “Well, hopefully it all provides that. That emotional impact comes from the singers performing. Remember the kids will also be performing inspirational songs on Tuesday. Also the films done by former Idol cast members. Those films are particularly powerful. Until you actually go there you don’t realize what is out there in terms of poverty.”
There is a rumor that you are reaching out to Paula (Abdul) to come back next year. Is there any truth to that?
CF: “There is no truth to that rumor.”
There is also word that the Obamas might participate in some way. Any truth to that?
CF: “You’ll have to tune it.”
Was there some song from some country that moved you in some way?
CF: “Yes, the last time that we did this I remember being very, very moved by a film we did with Save The Children. I think it was with Miley Cyrus who went there with her dad and they saw a family in the Appalachians. This family was incredibly poor. And I remember the mother in the film – it could have been a time when gas prices were rising every week – saying that if the gas prices went any higher she wouldn’t be able to take her kids to school. I remember that really struck me.”