SAN FRANCISCO -- A relatively small, but passionate, throng of pop-star wannabes endured long waits and frigid temperatures outside AT&T Park on Tuesday in hopes of landing a coveted spot on Season 13 of "American Idol."

Based on numbers alone, their chances of making a solid impression in this early audition session appeared to be much better than in years past. The last time "Idol" made a stop in the Bay Area -- for Season 10 -- long lines snaked around the ballpark and beyond.

This time, the crowd was held to only Willie Mays Plaza in front of the park. Meanwhile, behind AT&T, several long rows of metal barricades set up in anticipation of a massive turnout were all for naught.

It was yet another sign that much of the luster has come off Fox's venerable reality show. Once, a Nielsen juggernaut that towered over prime time, "Idol" suffered a steep rating decline in Season 12, partially because of a judges panel that lacked chemistry and partially because of the inevitable wear and tear of old age.

Now, "Idol" is in transition. Longtime judge Randy Jackson, along with Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey, have departed, and the show's top two executive producers have been dismissed. Speculation is swirling over not only who will fill out the new panel, but whether "Idol" has much life left in it.


Advertisement

The AT&T crowd, of course, wasn't concerned with any of that. They arrived with hopes of taking the first steps on the path to stardom previously traveled by Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Adam Lambert and others. And when cheery host Ryan Seacrest got on a megaphone to ask, "Bay Area, are you ready?!" they responded with boisterous cheers.

As you would expect, Seacrest, the last holdout from the original "Idol" crew, is taking an upbeat approach to Season 13.

"We're finalizing the panel and I think fans of the show will be excited over what we'll actually end up with," he said during a brief chat with reporters.

Seacrest was asked what he thought of reports that the judges' panel may feature one or more contestants from past seasons of the show.

"I think it's an interesting idea," he said. "I think it depends on who that former Idol is -- what kind of experience that Idol has had since they've been through the program, what kind of success they've had. All of that is part of the credibility we're looking for."

As for the experience of witnessing the chilly vibes between Minaj and Carey last season, Seacrest acknowledged that there "was never a dull moment."

"It's a live television show and you've got a lot of different personalities, so you never knew what to expect," he said. "For me, that's part of the fun -- that you just aren't exactly sure how anything is going to end up. Sometimes it goes well, sometimes it doesn't. Such is life."