''American Idol'' plans road trips, world conquest. The last two finalists will take their campaigns across America, while producers plan an Olympics-like version of the show that would feature international competition

By the time ”American Idol” gets down to two finalists, the contestants will be so eager for your vote that they may plead their cases to you in person. During the week before the Sept. 4 finale, the show will send the two remaining competitors on the road across the U.S. ”It’ll be almost like a presidential campaign,” series coproducer Nigel Lythgoe tells the New York Daily News.

On Aug. 29, the day after voters pick the final twosome, the pair will leave New York on separate trips and work their way back to Los Angeles, with ”Idol” TV crews filming their appearances in various cities along the way. The trips will give the singers time to learn and record the song composed for the winner, which will hit stores as a single within three weeks of the finale. (While the winner gets a deal to record an album’s worth of new tunes, the runner-up’s version of the song will be released as a single as well.)

Before they get the show on the road, Lythgoe says that the semi-finalists will get some help from master songwriter Burt Bacharach during the Aug. 13 episode. (That should be pretty funny, considering how many of the ”Idol” wannabes butchered his ”I Say a Little Prayer” during one of the early elimination rounds.) ”Burt will come in and help the finalists choose their next song, and then they’ll stand up there and sing some of his,” Lythgoe tells the Daily News.

The road trips are only the next stage in the producers’ effort to spread ”Idol” fever around the world. Series creator Simon Fuller tells Billboard that he wants to produce an Olympics-like version that would involve international competition. ”The working title of the show is ‘World Idol,’ and we’ll have the winners from different countries around the world competing against each other,” Fuller says. ”My intention is that the whole world will vote, and we’ll work the voting system so that the population of the country will be fair and proportional to the votes the contestants receive.”

Besides the hit versions in England and the U.S., the producers have already created ”Idol” franchises in Poland and South Africa and plan to introduce German and French versions by the end of the year. Just one question: in how many languages does Simon Cowell know how to say, ”You have no talent”?

Episode Recaps

American Idol

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.

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