Why American Idol Judge Luke Bryan Is Missing The First Live Episode of The Season

luke bryan smiling on american idol season 4
(Image credit: ABC press)

After twelve pre-recorded episodes that went from debate-worthy audition rounds to showstoppers and duets with all-stars, American Idol is finally ready to dive into its live episodes, starting with the results that will whittle the Top 16 down to the Top 12. Unfortunately, judge Luke Bryan is having to forego his weekly duties, with the country singer revealing that he won't be around for the first live episode at all. Why not? It turns out Bryan recently tested positive for COVID-19. But there's good news in the form of a returning Idol legend.

Just hours ahead of American Idol going live on ABC with the Top 12 Reveal episode, Luke Bryan revealed his diagnosis on his Twitter page, saying:

I’m sad to say I won’t be a part of tonight’s first live American Idol show. I tested positive for COVID but I’m doing well and look forward to being back at it soon.

Obviously the most important element to take away from Luke Bryan's post is that he's on the mend, and doesn't appear to be suffering too much from his health troubles. It sounds like he will be back in a timely manner, although no specifics were given on that front, and it's not entirely clear when Bryan first found out about the diagnosis, or how long his COVID symptoms have been evident so far. It doesn't seem like a sure thing that the award-winning musician will be back in the judge's chair during next week's "Oscar-Nominated Songs" episode, but we'll have to wait on an official update to be sure.

Now for the good news! While Luke Bryan is recovering and getting back to full strength, American Idol will welcome O.G. judge and Masked Dancer vet Paula Abdul back to the musical festivities. Though she'd appeared on Idol's last season finale during its Fox run, after having exited the show years earlier, this will mark Abdul's first time appearing on the competition series after its move to ABC. The show shared the news via its Instagram page, as seen below.

Luke will be missed at our first American Idol LIVE show tonight, but he is resting now in quarantine at home and we’re wishing him a speedy recovery. We’re so excited to announce Paula Abdul will be stepping in as a guest judge to join Lionel Richie and Katy Perry as we get closer to crowning a new winner!

Considering Luke Bryan only recently showed off an eye-twitch-worthy injury he suffered while fishing, it's clear he needed a little bit of time to sit back and recuperate. And while we're perfectly happy watching Paula Abdul back in her element on American Idol, here's hoping Bryan feels better with the quickness.

American Idol airs Sunday and Monday nights on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.