American Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe refuses to believe Jennifer Lopez is leaving the show
LOS ANGELES - Nigel Lythgoe was seated in a press conference here at the Beverly Hilton Hotel this morning to talk about the latest season of his other reality TV baby, the dance competition So You Think You Can Dance.
But make no mistake; what most writers gathered here for the TV Critics Association's summer press tour wanted to talk about was the 800-pound gorilla he also executive produces, American Idol.
Specifically, who is going to be on this judging panel, anyway?
Lythgoe insists it's not a done deal that judge Jennifer Lopez is leaving the judge's table, despite the fact that she told host Ryan Seacrest on his radio show: "I honestly feel that the time has come, that I have to get back to doing the other things that I do that I've put kind of on hold."
"I don't know why you'd say 99 percent," Lythgoe said after the press conference, referring to Lopez's non-definitive announcement that she was probably done with American Idol. "I don't know if it's a negotiating tactic. I really don't know."
(UPDATE: Fox confirmed Mariah Carey will join American Idol as a judge next year.)
Of course, questions about Idol have filled the press since Aerosmith vocalist Steven Tyler announced he was leaving the show and Lopez sorta said she was going. Lythgoe said he was "upset" to hear about Tyler leaving and admitted that -- given he is still negotiating his contract to remain as executive producer -- it is possible the network's drive to remake the show might include jettisoning him, as well.
"Because they asked me to come back two years ago, and we were lauded with what we did...I would have thoughts they'd want me back, without being egotistical about it," he said. "But they are negotiating, so I can keep my fingers crossed."
It's also worth noting that Fox and show producers 19 Entertainment has not officially commented on Lopez's supposed departure, indicating that perhaps negotiations continue. Makes one wonder if the show may be waiting to see if they land another big name -- like, say, Mariah Carey -- before finally pulling the trigger on that 1 percent change.
Lythgoe repeated previous comments that he would like to see the judges changed every year, perhaps to preserve the excitement which gave Idol a 10 percent viewership boost in the year Tyler and Lopez joined the panel.
"It's horrible to be in this position where you guys are like 'Who's it going to be?'" he said. "There are thousands of names being thrown out. I tried to deflate everything by saying (we'd hire ) the Three Stooges, but...you can't negotiate with someone in a public marketplace. And once you've negotiated with the person, you then have to negotiate around that person. It's a bit like putting together a jigsaw puzzle without a picture on top of the box."