‘American Idol’ Producer Nigel Lythgoe Discusses Show’s Future

'I'm reading so much baloney,' Lythgoe says of rumor-filled search for new judges.

Earlier this month, it was announced that Nigel Lythgoe would be returning to “American Idol” as an executive producer, ending a two-year absence during which the once-mighty show took a tumble, in terms of both ratings and cultural relevance.

His return couldn’t have come during a more tenuous time for “Idol,” which has already seen the departures of iconic judge Simon Cowell , quickly improving Kara DioGuardi and, uh, genuinely nice Ellen DeGeneres . In fact, at the moment, the show has just one judge under contract for next season (that would be Randy Jackson) and has embarked on a lengthy, rumor-filled search to find two new talents to pair him with, with Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler and, until recently, Jennifer Lopez the reported front-runners.

Obviously, Lythgoe has his work cut out for him. Rumors abound that he’s contemplating a massive overhaul of the show, though in a new interview with Yahoo Music, he kept his plans close to the vest while making it very clear that he believes “Idol” ‘s flagging fortunes can be reversed.

Responding to the suggestion that another Brit should fill Simon’s seat, Lythgoe said, “My feeling is [the selection process] depends on the content of the panel, and the chemistry within it. I don’t care if they’re Romanian, as long as they fit in with the people around them, and we get a feeling that they know what they’re talking about.

“Listen, I wouldn’t be going back if I didn’t think the show could be turned around,” he said. “I do think if we put the focus back in the right place, which is on that young talent, [then] why wouldn’t it be successful?”

Lythgoe also downplayed reports that J.Lo’s diva-like demands had taken her out of consideration for the “Idol” judges’ table, and cautioned that no one should believe anything they’ve read about just who will be joining Jackson on the show. It’s still very early in the process, after all.

“I’m reading so much baloney in everything. There was something in the press saying Jennifer Lopez is a diva. That woman is in no way a diva, they don’t know what divas are if they think Jennifer Lopez is one. … There is so much rubbish going on,” he said. “My feeling is [the selection process] depends on the content of the panel, and the chemistry within it. I don’t care if they’re Romanian, as long as they fit in with the people around them, and we get a feeling that they know what they’re talking about.

“All you want [in an 'Idol' judge] is somebody who’s going to be honest with their decisions, not somebody who’s going to say things to be nice,” he continued. “And why would a star, in truth, want to come on that show and say, ‘You were crap tonight’? Because that star is going to be booed. … So it’s going to be really difficult. You just want honest people.”

To that end, Lythgoe added that “Idol” might just choose a few lesser-known talents to serve as judges. After all, it worked in the past, and Lythgoe sees no reason why it couldn’t happen again. Such a move just might return the focus of the show back towards the contestants.

“Don’t forget, when I started ‘American Idol,’ I brought over Simon Cowell, who no one had heard of, and a young man called Randy Jackson … and Paula Abdul, who a lot of people had said, well, her career is over,” he said. “And that was the start of a team that will be revered every time judges are spoken about. So it isn’t just about what you’ve done in your career, it’s about how you fit in with other people around you. And at the end of the day, it’s about the contestants and their talent, and it’s not about the judges.”

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