American Idol’s executive producer Nigel Lythgoe chatted with reporters this morning, fielding questions about Idol’s relatively dismal ratings, what to expect from Hollywood Week, and if he has a favorite 2012 contestant (yes). The British TV exec spoke candidly, answering all questions with humor and honesty. Spoiler alert: He already has a favorite contestant.
On American Idol 2012 Contestants:
Nigel says, without a doubt, “The talent this year is terrific,” but explains Season 10 was a hard act to follow: “I loved last year because we had such a diversity of talent.” This year, Nigel says the contestants’ sound (and even their shape) has changed a bit: “Adele has had a huge influence… Last year it was Gaga, this year, Adele. Those types of voices and — I'm probably going to be very un-P.C. — that shape of singer, as well has come out and feels proud, and rightly so, to come to the audition and expose their talent."
On Hollywood Week:
Randy Jackson and Jennifer Lopez have previously hinted Season 11’s Hollywood Week was a hard week for contestants, with fainting (by one Ms. Symone Black) and dehydration requiring repeated calls for medics to the Idol set. Nigel sounds borderline exasperated about the contestants’ lack of stamina: "The surprise is that people still don't realize what they're going to be put through, because we haven't changed it," he says. "It's still that sleep deprivation, that night that they're going to work.”
The culprit? “Stupidity of dehydration,” Nigel says, sounding like an exasperated dad, adding,“The best ones were going to bed by 11:30, 12 o'clock. And the ones that sucked when they started and sucked when they finished were going to bed at 3:45, 4 o'clock in the morning.” It wasn’t just lack of sleep and dehydration that felled contestants, Nigel explains, but there was also a terrible “vomiting” bug going around. The contestant who gave that horrible virus to everyone was the one and only Amy Brumfield, a.k.a. “Tent Girl.”
On Idol Judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler:
Nigel says J.Lo and Steven Tyler bring an interesting angle to the Idol judging panel as musicians: “You’re dealing with artists who are dealing with other artists.” Simon Cowell is a recording executive, so his angle is “will you make me money,” Nigel explains, whereas Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler are musicians at heart, and “artists judge differently.” Nigel doesn’t think this is a negative thing in the least, adding: “They are as honest as I think they can be and as supportive as they want to be.”
On the Ryan Seacrest Departure Rumors:
Addressing rumors that this is Ryan Seacrest’s last season as host of Idol, Nigel says: “I just hope he doesn't leave, to be frank with you. I think they should try and sort out a deal.” Nigel emphasizes the show will go on, with or without Ryan at the helm. “There can always be an Idol without anybody," he says. "I'm surprised that question's still being asked after Simon [Cowell] left us when everybody said there wouldn't be an Idol without Simon.”
On The Voice, Smash, Other Singing Shows:
“I feel in the wonderful position to be creating stars for American television,” Nigel laughs, noting Kelly Clarkson’s addition to The Voice and Katherine McPhee’s role on NBC’s Smash. “We’re turning stars out,” he says.
What does Nigel really think of NBC’s The Voice? “My thoughts on The Voice at the moment are I think it's a fun format,” he explains. “It's very gimmicky, which is interesting at this moment and time. I particularly like the relationship between Blake [Shelton] and Adam [Levine]. Other than that, I think they need stronger talent. We'll see.”
Nigel says he has seen the Smash premiere and thinks Katharine McPhee is “fantastic” (natch), but is skeptical of the show’s longevity. “It's going to be interesting to see if the public stays with it. I'm not sure; it depends on the drama now. I'm not positive America is going to necessarily get a musical show at this time without the campery of Glee, if you like.”