With American Idol Season 12 over, Fox has been cleaning house in an effort to revamp the long-running singing competition for 2014. Every judge (except Keith Urban) has jumped ship, including veteran Randy Jackson, who’s been with American Idol since the very beginning.
But perhaps the most shocking cut was producer Nigel Lythgoe, who originally brought the idea of American Idol over from the UK back in 2002. The clincher? Nigel found out he was being let go from the show while on vacation reading the news!
Wetpaint Entertainment got to ask Nigel Lythgoe some burning questions about the future of American Idol at the Critic’s Choice Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on June 10. During the press conference, Nigel opened up about leaving Idol and what needs to happen in order for the show to succeed.
Wetpaint Entertainment: You’ve had an interesting week!
Nigel Lythgoe: To say the least!
What can you say about it?
Well, I was on holiday and of course I was reading and getting what people were sending me the press which was really tough because no one had contacted me at that point. I think what happened was they were hoping they would speak to me personally, face to face when I got back from holiday but it was just sort of leaked from the inside. It was embarrassing for everybody. So I got a telephone call on Friday which is of no fault of theirs.
So did you find out from The Hollywood Reporter?
No I think it was The Wrap originally, wasn’t it?
You’ve been with the show for so long, will it be weird to see headlines about it and see it on TV knowing you aren’t a part of it?
Of course, you know and I’m saddened from that point of view. I suppose both Ken and myself feel as though we created the production that then went worldwide. And certainly created the results show which was never in anybody’s thoughts until we came to America and it feels like that is the template for so many other reality shows now. So then to be asked to leave, it’s like oh wow!
What direction are they trying to take it in?
I don’t think it’s where they are trying to take it now; it’s where it was going I think was the worry. It’s this whole thing. I think it should be a family show. So I don’t believe you should be going and playing down to a younger market. I think you play for the family and you pull in the younger market. Families feel really guilty I believe that they don’t get together enough and when there’s a program on television that the whole family can watch together it’s going to give you that. So it’s the old way of looking at television, everyone is always told we need to play to a demographic; we never did that in seven seasons. We played for a family audience and I think that’s where we should have stayed playing for all of them. I don’t think you need to bring necessarily people in who are going to attract a younger audience because they are very fickle, a young audience, as we well know. And I do think that we need humor again and we need fun and camaraderie.
How did you deal with your emotions once you knew this was happening?
I didn’t take it personally. Nobody wants to see that program fail. So if the people who are now in charge, as I said in my statement, feels as though their ratings are going to improve by giving it to somebody else to recharge the batteries if you will, um I’m happy. But the big thing for me is to keep that platform for the talent. If the ratings keep going down the program is going to be canceled and that platform is going to go. And you won’t get the Kelly Clarkson’s or the Carrie Underwood’s and everything else so it’s really important that the show is successful.
Any relief to have all of that pressure sort of away?
No! No! Of course not, I’ve had two heart attacks and I’ve lost my marriage to that show! My body is built for that.
There are reports that they want to bring back former Idols. Do you think that would be a good thing to have them judging?
Number one, I don’t know but I truly believe in screen testing. I believe in getting everyone together, testing their chemistry, which is what I did with Randy, Paula and Simon. After that whoever you bring in it’s a risk because we saw it happen before and it’s one of those things that you don’t know how anybody is going to be as a judge. You can be the greatest singer in the world but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be a good judge. You can be a recording executive that has had some comedy hits and be a brilliant judge. Simon Cowell never sang a word in his life, thank god. But he was still a fabulous judge. That little team of Randy, Paula and Simon is the template for judges forever now.
You could get him back. You could get amazing judges. But isn't the problem oversaturation of talent shows?
A: Absolutely. It’s the first time there’s been two other shows on against Idol as well. Let’s not forget Idol’s judged against Idol and not against other television programs that are on at the moment. So if Idol is getting is getting 35 million and now only gets 16 or 17 million but has lost 50% of it’s audience, at the same time it is still 5 or 6 million higher than anything else on television.
No matter what they change or what they do, what’s the one thing you think anyone coming in needs to do with Idol?
Common sense is the first thing that flies out the window. Everyone goes into panic mode. Truly, and you just gotta say, ‘Hold on, let’s just stop. Are we really losing viewers because somebody sang a Burt Bacharach song? I don’t think so.’ If you look at — because music was cited all the way — all these old themes. We did twice as many modern songs as we did old songs. The fact is you can do modern songs — you can do the Adele songs which you do every year, the Bruno Mars, Rihanna, we do them all. At the same time the catalogs that are there — the Billy Joel's, the Elton John’s, Bacharach's are the ones that are memorable. The big hits we did last year were “I Who Have Nothing” and Shirley Bassey “Somewhere” from West Side Story, a Billie Holiday song. These are all songs and one song that was written from Angie which people had never heard before. You don’t have to know songs to go, “Wow that’s a great performance or that’s a great song.”