Big changes are in store for season 10 of “American Idol.” You already knew that the age limit has been dropped to 15 and that the #1 show on TV will be setting sail in January without signature judge Simon Cowell for the first time in its history. Now comes news from the Hollywood Reporter that after two years away, former executive producer Nigel Lythgoe is close to signing a deal to return to the show. And that’s just one of the shakeups being considered by producer Simon Fuller and Fox.
THR also reports that Fuller is adding to the list of new judge candidates — a list that includes singers Chris Isaak and Harry Connick Jr. Justin Timberlake and pop icon Elton John are now on his wish list. And given Lythgoe’s experience as the resident British judge on “So You Think You Can Dance,” it’s also possible that he could step up to the job himself.
Lythgoe left “Idol” after season seven, and as ratings have slipped and albums by winners Kris Allen and Lee DeWyze have failed to connect with as many fans as previous top finishers, Lythgoe has gone on record criticizing the judging and talent on the show. In April, Lythgoe said that if he were in charge of the show again, he would do a wholesale replacement of the judges’ panel, which now includes one original member, musician/producer Randy Jackson, along with newbies Kara DioGuardi and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres, whose debut season last year met with mixed results. Among the names he mentioned on his short list: Elton John, Usher and former judge Paula Abdul.
Witty British musical legend John has reportedly been on Lythgoe’s radar for some time, but coming to financial terms with the “Rocket Man” has apparently proven difficult, likely because of the significant income the singer still generates by touring, a portion of which he would presumably have to give up to work on the show.
The Reporter noted, though, that before such a major change could be undertaken, Fox would need to sign multiple new judges relatively quickly. Unnamed sources said Jackson, who has one year left on his contract, is likely to survive any shakeup and that tossing DeGeneres after one season would be difficult because she has a multiyear deal with Fox. DioGuardi, however, might be easier to cut loose, as she has a one-year-at-a-time deal that has not yet been renewed.
A spokesperson for the show had no comment on the reports when contacted by MTV News.
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