You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone and this certainly applies to the decades-long television institution that is the nine-time Emmy Award-Winning Series American Idol. A two-year gap in which the show moved from FOX to ABC has seen the program’s loyal fan base returning with fervor and a noticeable change in tone for AI. In addition to a fresh set of judges and the new season of competing singers, ABC’s iteration of this beloved program has adopted an even more personal approach than those preceding it. The twentieth season closely followed participants from the earliest stages of their time on the show and producer Alicia Sadler was there to ensure that many of these stories were communicated to viewers with sincerity. Known for her time producing on such popular programs as America’s Got Talent (Primetime Emmy Nominated) and The Voice UK (BAFTA Winner), it seems intuitive that Co-Eps Matt Banks (BAFTA Nominated Producer), Brian Updyke (Primetime Emmy Nominated Producer) and Exec Megan Wolflick would bring a talent like Alicia aboard AI. Sadler’s disarming charm complements her impressive talent to make her one of the most extraordinary producers in television today, particularly in a setting like American Idol where pressure can run high and stifle the sense of intimacy to which the show aspires.
The producers of AI understood that the audience was yearning for more connection with the contestants of the show. Season twenty marks the first time that the show created individual VT packages (personal backstory and experiences) of the Top 24. The vision of EP Matt Banks was to obtain this type of tethering of AI competitors and audience through B-roll footage shot at multiple locations for each. He personally placed Alicia in charge of this. She relates, “I would watch all their previous auditions and research their stories, brainstorm and pitch ideas to and with Matt on what we thought would help best tell their story.” There was an authenticity to the emotion manifested in the footage that Ms. Sadler and her crew obtained, mostly due to the personal and professional interaction the producer had with these contestants. She recalls, “I remember being at Disneyland, hiding behind one of the amusement games with Jay’s (Copeland, number seven finalist of the current season) mum to surprise him. She had flown in to congratulate him. It was her birthday and she was holding back the tears while we hid next to all the fluffy prize toys. It was quite surreal.”
Perhaps most significantly, Alicia Sadler understands how to enable us to see ourselves in the lives of others while still allowing them to retain their own individuality. This is evident time and time again in segments she producer for AI. Spending Shabbat with Danielle Finn and her family, standing on Compton football field with Top 20 finalist Dan Marshall to compare performing on the gridiron vs. the stage, or reminiscing over old video footage of Fritz Hager’s nana in a meditative celebration of Mother’s Day, these moments during season twenty displayed diversity along with an emotional foundation that is universally recognized. These segments resonated profoundly with the millions of fans of AI, furthering their affinity for what makes this show so special to them. Alicia confirms, “There were so many special moments in season twenty that I was proud of. As a professional, it was an honor being part of such a heritage show and working with a such an amazing crew, and the powers above. But beyond this, getting to meet and spend time with the singers and their families simply felt amazing. They were all so humbled and excited to be there, they were excited to be a part of the show and they were excited to work with me and I loved being able to film their journey along the way. From Hawaii to LA is quite a special journey. I was ‘the cool English girl I’ve told you about.” as Nicolina (Bozzo, American Idol season 20 Top 5 finalist) said to her sisters when we filmed with them all at Disney. I was honored! There’s a magic in knowing that this is a once-in-a-lifetime for them, and could change their lives forever, that creates a special atmosphere to be around.