Fox executive Kevin Reilly uses cellphone call to reveal Mariah Carey is new American Idol judge
LOS ANGELES -- It took a second of fumbling onstage with a cellphone, but Fox entertainment head Kevin Reilly was able to squelch a bunch of American Idol rumors with a single conversation on a speakerphone.
Within minutes, Reilly had confirmed pop star Mariah Carey was joining the blockbuster show's judging table and former judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez were definitely leaving.
"This all kind of happened really quickly," Carey said when called by Reilly. "I can't wait to get started in a couple of months."
Reilly said Carey's deal closed so quickly, she couldn't join TV critics at Fox's portion of the TCA summer press tour, so a few words of greeting over his cellphone's speaker had to do.
He also closed the door on speculation raised just an hour or so earlier when Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe told journalists here he wasn't sure Lopez was leaving the show. "That's a human thing," Reilly explained of Lythgoe's hedging. "I think I can say its 100 percent Jennifer won't be back to the show."
Critics here theorized that Fox and Idol may have been hedging on Lopez's departure -- refusing to publicly confirm her departure -- until they closed a deal with another big star. The news also seems to place Lythgoe in a precarious position, unaware of the shows move to hire such a big star while he's angling to stay on as executive producer (Lythgoe told critics here he's still negotiating his new contract.)
Left unanswered: Whether third judge Randy Jackson would come back, too. And if he does return, whether he would come back as a judge or mentor. Reilly would only say that Jackson, as Carey's co-manager, "was very instrumental in doing this deal" to bring her to Idol.
"We went into this season being transparent with our talent," Reilly said. "Although this show is vital as ever, our ratings were down. Not being the only game in town, we had to make changes."