'American Idol' Revamp Includes Axing Top 24, Adding Video Competition

Executive producer Nigel Lythgoe also says Randy Jackson is 'pulling his weight' for the upcoming season.

Call it the 10-Year Itch. A decade into its run, "American Idol" is getting a face-lift courtesy of returning executive producer Nigel Lythgoe. When the 10th season kicks off on January 12, contestants will be faced with a series of new challenges that will make the reshuffling of the judging panel seem tame by comparison.

According to an interview with TVGuide.com, Lythgoe has plans to streamline the show while giving contestants challenges that will potentially better prepare them for pop stardom.

Among the fresh wrinkles being thrown at the aspiring singers are contests to make the best music videos and promote themselves and a chance to work with a band and dancers for an awards show-style performance.

The biggest tweak, however, has to do with the mechanics of the show — namely, the elimination of the round of 24 that shrinks the cast down to the final 12. "I didn't think [the top 24] were very good, I was bored with them by the time they got there," Lythgoe said. It was not specified, however, if the adjustment means that judges will pick the top 12 or what will replace the shows that formerly made up the early audience voting rounds.

So far, Lythgoe said new judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez are settling in to their gigs and taking the job very seriously. "They both listen intently and don't make glib remarks," he said. "They give honest critiques." At the same time, he noted that sole remaining original judge Randy Jackson, best known up until now for his mostly lightweight, catchphrase-heavy critiques, has upped his game. "Randy is pulling his weight," Lythgoe said. "He really has stepped up. He's essentially come out of himself. He's enjoying being in that position."

Among the other new aspects contestants — who can now be as young as 15 — will face are theme weeks that will cover certain decades rather than the catalogs of popular artists and a new in-house mentor in the form of Interscope Geffen A&M Records chairman Jimmy Iovine.

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