Every Tuesday and Wednesday night, almost 30 million people grab a snack, get their dialing fingers ready and clear their schedules for the most watched show on television—American Idol.
Ryan, Simon, Paula and Randy are still working with this year's talented new crop of contestants, but producers have already shaken up a few things this season. There's feisty new judge Kara DioGuardi and a new rule that could change the entire competition... What's the new American Idol rule?
It's called the judge's save, and it gives them veto power over America's vote. If the judges feel a contestant has been unfairly eliminated, they must all agree to bring that singer back. But there are a few catches. The judges can only use this once a season, it has to be used before it gets down to the final five and two contestants must be eliminated the following week.
"That was something they tried actually on the French version of the show," Ryan says. "In years past, we lost people—Chris Daughtry, Jennifer Hudson, as well. People who were great, who probably should have lasted longer on the show." Does Ryan know who's going home when the live elimination show begins?
Ryan reveals an American Idol secret...he and the show's executive producer are the only people who know the results before the show begins.
"Before the live broadcast, and in the rehearsal, they [used to] give me these cards that have numbers instead of people's names," he says. "And so I decided recently that I want to know going into the live show who's going out, so I'm not thinking, ''Wait, who was number 7? Who was number 6?'"
When Ryan walks on stage for the live broadcast, he says he tries to look at each contestant the same way. "They do stare at me, and they calculate how long my stare is. If I wink, if I extend my hand, if I hug them, if I high five...and what that might mean."
What's it like to say goodbye to a contestant?
He's been saying goodbye to contestants for seven seasons, but Ryan says it's not easy. When he sees tears well up in young singers' eyes, he says he feels terrible in that moment.
"In your head, you're trying to figure out how to say the right thing to her, [but] you've also got to move the show along, so you don't want to be insensitive," he says. "But those are always real human moments that I don't know what the right thing to say is sometimes. They're tough."
Ryan thinks the best way to handle the situation is to look contestants in the eyes and tell them how proud they should be. "It's incredible to think of a 16-year-old or 17-year-old kid...to stand up on that stage in front of 30 million people and have the poise and determination to pull that off," he says. "I'm impressed by that every week." If Ryan had to guess right now who will win this season's competition, who would he say?
It's the question the Idol host and judges dread every season. "You're killing me," Ryan jokes. "If the finale were tomorrow, I would probably say Danny and Adam and maybe Allison and Kris..."