'American Idol': Luke Bryan has COVID-19; Paula Abdul returns as substitute judge

Erin Jensen

A familiar face will fill in for Luke Bryan as judge on Monday's "American Idol" (ABC, 8 EDT/PDT), this season's first live episode of ABC's singing competition.

Paula Abdul, a longtime judge when Fox aired the series, will temporarily take over for the country artist and judge, who tested positive for COVID-19.

Bryan, 44, announced his diagnosis Monday afternoon on Twitter. "I tested positive for COVID but I’m doing well and look forward to being back at it soon," he shared with his more than 9 million followers. The singer is "resting now in quarantine at home," said a message on the show's official Instagram page, where Abdul's return was revealed. "We’re so excited to announce @paulaabdul will be stepping in as a guest judge to join Lionel Richie and Katy Perry as we get closer to crowning a new winner!"

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Abdul, 58, an original judge when "Idol" debuted in 2002, exited after the show's eighth season. The series ended its Fox run in 2016 but was revived on ABC in 2018 with Bryan, Perry and Richie as judges, and Ryan Seacrest back as host. This marks the first time Abdul will appear on ABC's version of the show. 

Sunday's episode revealed the top 16 contestants, whittling the group down from 24. Monday's episode will reduce the field of finalists again to the top 12. 

Viewers can vote on, the "American Idol" app or via text message.

Contributing: Charles Trepany

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