Former ‘American Idol’ Producer Nigel Lythgoe Criticizes Season Nine

The 'So You Think You Can Dance' judge says 'Idol' was more worried about the judges than the talent this year.

Nigel Lythgoe doesn’t produce “American Idol” anymore, but that doesn’t mean the “So You Think You Can Dance” judge/ executive producer doesn’t have an opinion on the troubled ninth season of “Idol.”

Though it retained its title as the most popular show on television, Lythgoe told The Canadian Press that “Idol” show-runners lost a bit of their mojo this year.

“The team took their eye off the ball a little bit and was more worried about the judges and what was happening with them than it was regarding the talent last year,” he said. “It became about Kara (DioGuardi) joining and making the fourth judge; Paula (Abdul) leaving; Ellen (DeGeneres) joining and Simon leaving — and much more about them and concentrating on that than on the talent that they were finding.”

In general, Lythgoe said, he wasn’t much of a fan of the season, which ended with former paint salesman Lee DeWyze winning out over earthy Ohio single mom Crystal Bowersox in the lowest-rated “Idol” finale since season one .

“It wasn’t a vintage year,” he said, adding that he doesn’t believe departed lead judge Cowell should be replaced on the panel. “It’s never been my opinion that four judges work on that program because it should be about the talent,” said Lythgoe, who was one of the executive producers of “Idol” for the first seven seasons.

In other “Idol” news, the American Federation of Musicians sued the show’s producers on Friday, claiming that “Idol” has sold downloads and ringtones of songs performed on the show without paying the musicians who originally played on them, according to Variety. The suit seeks $500,000 in back pay for the union musicians who played the songs on the show.

While the “Idol” band members are paid for the initial performance on the show, AFM contracts call for additional payment for any “new use” of their music, including ringtones, which the union claims the musicians have not been paid for. The union is also seeking contributions to the union pension fund, interest, attorney fees and payments to the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund for “American Idol” video sales with song performances. According to a union spokesperson, the lawsuit was a final resort after the failure of settlement talks — in which “Idol” producers initially offered a settlement of less than 5 percent of the claim.

A spokesperson for “Idol” could not be reached for comment on Lythgoe’s statements or the lawsuit.

Do you agree with Nigel that the four judges distract from the talent on “Idol”? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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