The Return of Nigel Lythgoe: All Change at 'American Idol'?
Two years after he quit, Nigel Lythgoe may be set to return to 'American Idol,' and word is that he's ready to clean house.
According to 'The Hollywood Reporter,' "Nasty Nigel" is close to signing a deal with Fox to be named executive producer. It's reportedly part of the network's "master plan to reboot the show" following declining ratings and mega-judge Simon Cowell's recent departure. And the seats at judges' table are, it would seem, ALL up for grabs under a new regime.
Execs have been scrambling to fill Cowell's chair with a high-profile music industry insider, and the many names so far linked with the spot have included Sean Combs, Quincy Jones, Bret Michaels and Harry Connick, Jr.
The previous front runner was thought to be singer Chris Isaak, but it's now rumored that at the top of 'American Idol' chief Simon Fuller's wishlist are Elton John and Justin Timberlake. And that although Fuller's been after Elton John for some time -- so far unsuccessfully -- Lythgoe could be the one to sign him, or even him and Timberlake.
But what happens to the current judges? Lythgoe told a reporter in April that if he was in charge at 'American Idol' he'd replace all of them, and he also criticized the decision to up the number of judges from three to four, saying it was "distracting" for the viewers. He's on record as saying that his choice as judges would be: Elton John (him again), Paula Abdul and Usher.
Rumors have been circulating for weeks that Fox and Fuller want to get rid of all the judges, and it's been noted that newbie Kara DioGuardi's one-year-at-a-time deal hasn't yet been renewed, and that Randy Jackson's only got one year left on his contract. Getting rid of Ellen DeGeneres could be tricky as she signed a multi-year deal with Fox, and a source close to her says she's prepared to fulfill her contract with 'American Idol.'
Originally a dancer and choreographer, Lythgoe worked his way through the TV industry in the U.K. until in 2000 he became famous as the outspoken head judge on talent show 'Popstars.' He later worked with Simon Fuller to create the hit show 'Pop Idol,' which they turned into a worldwide TV franchise, including 'American Idol.' Lythgoe ran the show for seven seasons before he left to launch 'So You Think You Can Dance,' where he's also a judge. So far there's been no word on whether he'll have a seat at the revamped 'Idol' judges' table.
But the clock's ticking to get it all wrapped up. 'American Idol' auditions have already begun taping with the current judges in place and Peter Rice, new entertainment chairman at Fox, said that he expects the new judge (or judges?) to be out on the auditions roadshow in early September. Lythgoe and Fuller are also up against Simon Cowell in the race to sign celebrity judges as he's launching 'The X Factor' in the U.S. next year.
The tenth season of 'American Idol' is due to premiere on Fox in January 2011.
'The X Factor' is slated to debut on Fox in September 2011.