‘American Idol’ alumni notes: Katharine McPhee, Carrie Underwood, and more

A smashing start.

This week, there are plenty of “American Idol” achievements worth talking about — and we also have a few highlights from a conference call where executive producer Nigel Lythgoe strongly defended his show against claims that the declining ratings were absolutely horrifying.

Carrie to the Grammys – We’ll start with the big news that Kelly Clarkson is not going to be the only show alum performing at this year’s awards show — Carrie Underwood is going to be doing the same exact thing. Likely Kelly, she is reported to be taking part in a duet, though on her occasion it will be with Tony Bennett rather than Jason Aldean. The season 4 champ will be joining such other superstars as Coldplay, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Adele, Sir Paul McCartney, and many more for the broadcast Sunday on CBS.

Underwood and Bennett previously performed a duet together on an episode of “Blue Bloods” — and if you haven’t seen this yet, you can check it out below.

McPhee’s new show a “Smash” – In what gives “Idol” alum even more credibility today, the series premiere of “Smash” has turned out to be the best thing since to happen to NBC at 10:00 p.m. Eastern since “ER.”

Overall, the show drew 11.5 million viewers along with a 3.8 rating in the 18-49 demographic — and while these numbers were inflated by “The Voice” and will likely go down, NBC ultimately validated their decision to air two million commercials for the show since Christmas. For perspective, this rating is nearly four times the average in the demo of what the network was pulling in at 10:00 p.m. on Mondays since the fall — and it also is the second-best premiere for a drama series this season behind “Once Upon a Time” in November.

Nigel’s defense – We took part in a conference call with Nigel on Tuesday afternoon, and he was put on the defense pretty early by people talking about the success of “The Voice” (a show he refers to as “gimmicky”) and those quick to say that “Idol” is fading fast thanks to its substantial ratings drop.

Nigel’s response? That we shouldn’t read into some of the nastiness. The show has indeed been around for a 11 seasons, and there is going to be a drop that comes along with it. He does feel as though “The Voice” and “The X Factor” have put a dent into Fox’s flagship competition, but claims that the strength of the singers (which we honestly haven’t seen much of so far) will end up carrying the show through.

As for some major changes coming up, Nigel said not to expect much that’s different in the way of shake-ups — and there doesn’t seem to be any immediate plan to give the judges more than one “save” to use despite what was previous hinted in various reports.

Finally, a brief Haley headline – Since Haley Reinhart was a personal favorite during season 10, we do feel the need to pass on one tiny bit of news — she is currently auditioning people for her band! Haley confirmed the news in a post on her Twitter page this week. (It’s probably safe to say Randy Jackson is not trying out based on some of his irrational criticisms of her from this past season.)

Photo: NBC

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