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Nigel Lythgoe finally admits he's rejoining American Idol: here's why that may not help much



Nigel-lythgoe I'm convalescing at home after an amazing nine days spent chasing celebrities and TV executives in Los Angeles, but I couldn't let today pass without noting that one of the rumors regarding American Idol turned out to be true: former producer Nigel Lythgoe is returning to the show for the next season.

The buzz on this whole deal is that Lythgoe left the show amid disenchantment over the four-judge format. Which will fuel the other big rumor regarding Idol's restructuring -- that judge Kara DioGuardi is toast and two new faces will appear at the judges' table come  mid-September, when they tape the celebrities' judging of folks culled from the big cattle call auditions.

(Indeed, Lythgoe told the New York Post when DioGuardi was hired "I don't like fourth judges. I think once you've been told 'You suck,' you don't need to be told another three times.")

I've got lots of respect for Lythgoe -- the show seemed to run off the rails when he left and his public criticism of the show since he left has always been on target. But two things are happening here that I fear will threaten the revamp of Idol that few will appreciate now.

The heart of the show is the contestants, which nobody seems focused on right now -- As the big suits haggle over finalizing contracts for new judges, everyone forgets that the auditions for new talent are happening right now. The celebrity judges won't even be in place until several rounds of auditions are done and the contenders are in place. Even if God himself -- or Elton John, the next best thing -- comes down to play judge, it won't matter if the contestants are as lackluster as they were last season. So who's minding that store?

This judging drama repeats mistake of last season; too much focus on the judges -- Idol producers are in a pickle here. Choose a big name like John, J.Lo or Justin Timberlake, and most of next season will be spent dissecting how well those people fit in the judging mix, diluting the show. Choose names who may be good judges but unknown -- U2/Dave Matthews producer Steve Lillywhite is an example -- and the press spends weeks criticizing the lack of star power and comparing the unknowns to star predecessors Simon Cowell and, yes, Paula Abdul.

Perhaps now that Lythgoe's got his contract worked out -- did he time it this way to avoid all us sharks at the TV Critics Association press tour? -- we'll see more changes come faster.

Click below to see the press release:

Nigel Lythgoe Returns to 'AMERICAN IDOL' as Executive Producer

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- Nigel Lythgoe will return as an executive producer of AMERICAN IDOL, television's No. 1 series.  Lythgoe joins executive producers Simon Fuller, Cecile Frot-Coutaz and Ken Warwick for the milestone 10th anniversary season of AMERICAN IDOL, premiering January 2011 on FOX.

"Since we launched the original 'Pop Idol' in England, I've remained close with Simon Fuller.  Working as executive producer on AMERICAN IDOL for its first seven years not only was an inspirational journey into the heart of American pop culture, it opened my eyes to the untapped potential of the incredibly dynamic young people in this world.  I have been able to continue discovering raw talent on 'So You Think You Can Dance,' which I co-created with Simon," said Lythgoe. "AMERICAN IDOL became a juggernaut of epic proportions, but to me it was always like home.  I am elated and honored to be rejoining childhood friend and fellow executive producer Ken Warwick, and look forward to creating more magic."

"I am so happy to be welcoming Nigel back to the IDOL family.  He is without doubt the most accomplished executive producer I have ever worked with.  Nigel helped to define the show I created almost ten years ago, mentoring our judging panel and nurturing our talent.  His unbridled passion has been missed," said AMERICAN IDOL creator and executive producer Simon Fuller.  "This year, with IDOL celebrating our tenth season as the world's biggest and most powerful TV show, I felt it was an important time to collaborate with Nigel once again to help redefine AMERICAN IDOL and take us through to the next incarnation of the show."

Nigel Lythgoe is co-founder of Big Red 2 Entertainment, a company he set up with IDOL creator Simon Fuller and CKX.  Lythgoe is also co-creator and executive producer of the Emmy Award-winning series "So You Think You Can Dance."  His other executive producer/co-creator credits include seven seasons of AMERICAN IDOL.  While serving as the show's executive producer, AMERICAN IDOL was nominated for 47 Emmy Awards, and in 2007, received the prestigious Governors' Award, the Television Academy's highest honor, for IDOL GIVES BACK, which he executive produced.

AMERICAN IDOL is created and executive produced by Simon Fuller, founder, 19 Entertainment; and executive produced by Cecile Frot-Coutaz, CEO, FremantleMedia North America, Inc.; Ken Warwick, executive producer, FremantleMedia North America, Inc.; and Nigel Lythgoe, president, Big Red 2 Entertainment.

[Last modified: Thursday, August 12, 2010 2:16pm]


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