Nigel Lythgoe on American Idol Judges Reveal: “At Least They’ve Made One Good Decision This Season”

The irony of American Idol’s big reveal of the new judges panel yesterday, is that Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. were former producer, Nigel Lythgoe’s, “dream team”…last season!

After the So You Think You Can Dance final performance show last night Nigel–who produces and judges the FOX show–told Yahoo Music’s Lyndsey Parker that he suggested the trio to the network, but with the big bucks flowing out for salaries, TPTB ultimately had the final say, and decided to go in another direction.

Nigel said it feels “like a kick in the teeth” but at least the new producers have made one good decision this season. “And it’s a great decision,” he said.

When asked if he’d make a return to Idol, a la Randy Jackson, who will be the new in-house mentor this season (after initially being dumped as judge), Nigel said, “I very much doubt it.” He then added: “I think Randy is a fantastic ambassador, [but] I’m sorry that they’ve lost [former mentor] Jimmy Iovine. Jimmy Iovine was a good voice and a good opinion, whether you agreed with him or disagreed with him.”

Ultimately, despite having been fired by FOX, Nigel refused to badmouth the show he launched 11 years ago. “It’s going to be an interesting season, one that I think they’ve now put on the right track…It’s never going to be the same, it’s never going to be in that 35-40 million mark, but the program is still brilliant…For me, every single season that I worked on ‘American Idol,’ even when we were going downhill last season, has been brilliant. It’s been an honor to work on it.”

Via Yahoo Music

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  • Mateja Praznik

    Oh Nigel, still clueless. Sadly, the new producers are just as clueless as him.

  • tripp_ncwy

    Wonder how long SYTYCD will last.

  • lkingcorn

    Seems they are trotting out the “dream team” mantra whenever possible. Looking forward to Mjs recaps.

  • MichaelG (MikhailXO)

    Shut-up, Nigel.

  • Eilonwy_has_an_emu

    While I disagree with pretty much every Lythgoe decision for the past several years now, I don’t begrudge him his gloat over this one.

  • windmills

    I was offline most of the long weekend so I haven’t weighed in on the official panel yet.

    Not crazy about JLo’s return but she did have her moments as a good judge. It’ll all depend on producers allowing/asking her to bring her A-game as a critic. She is also pretty articulate and to the point.

    Harry Connick Jr is a good pick IMO. Whether or not I agree with him, he has a clear point of view on music, and I think he will be encouraged to express that. That is what this show needs.

    Keith disappointed me last year but turning into a producer lackey last year but he is the most articulate judge this show has had, and he’s really musically knowledgeable and intelligent across country, pop, and rock. Hopefully he’ll be better this year.

    Idol is never going to a “hip” show and chasing after a CHR-hip producer or manager was not going to magically result in a CHR-ready discovery. Not even The Voice has launched a CHR act yet, though Cassadee is likely trying to get there by using country radio. The audience for these shows is looking for something it won’t hear on CHR radio.

    Look, I had grown tired of the HAC pop/rock guy reign too. Candice and Kree are much more my kind of voices and artists. But s12 clearly overcorrected and didn’t make for good TV despite Candice’s incredible voice and inventiveness and Kree’s gorgeous voice and backstory. So as far as making for good TV, I think Harry/JLo/Keith could do pretty well if the casting is right.

    Now let’s work on a truly diverse cast, not tilting the “artist” label too much towards males, higher quality song choices, and not ramming manufactured contestant storylines into the ground, and maybe this upcoming season of AI has a chance.

  • Amy Beth

    It’s pretty ironic that they made this “good decision” because they were coming up against deadlines and several people they wanted said no.

  • b_james

    Still can’t believe he suggested this last season, they didn’t listen, it failed, then went his direction after firing him. Aside from boring themes, he put on a great show. I’m curious to see if they can freshen up the show in ways other than who is sitting at the table.

  • Denise

    I blame the Fox execs way more than Nigel. Their choices for judges last season left a LOT to be desired and they made those choices based on the perceived need to “update” the show. In doing so, they lost a large number from their core audience. They also, I believe, were directly responsible for the lack of acceptable male talent in another misguided(IMO) effort to prove the critics wrong. First time I EVER accused the show of cheating for a result.

  • Sassycatz

    Oh, they definitely are to blame for the judges’ panel last year, including the fact that they didn’t “test drive” them for their chemistry. Just one session would’ve shown them that Mariah and Nicki were like oil and water.

  • Stooch

    I agree the Execs made the final decision on the judges. But Nigel is to blames for the contestants cast last season and buying the meme that Idol needs girl power survive. Plus the stale song-book and dated themes of the show are on him too.

  • Incipit

    “Still can’t believe he suggested this last season,”

    Well, actually, I don’t believe it. I think this is a story Nigel can tell because he knew about the negotiations – and we never heard that song and dance until after the fact. Like a WWII General writing his memoirs, this battle was fought differently in his version. JMO.

    “Aside from boring themes, he put on a great show.”

    Sure, Also aside from putting through mediocre contestants on purpose when the producers picked the cast, either for comic relief or from plain bone headedness, other than encouraging the Waving hands of Hell in the Faux Mosh Pit – signing off on the band separated from the performers and stuck up in the rafters, the refusal to update the song list, the producers pushing their song choices, the tacit approval of ballad after ballad being sung, allowing those wretched arrangements to be used, and leaking every little morsel of the M&M feud to TMW – that all goes along with the boring themes, IMO.

    Other than that. Which is about 90% of the show, but who’s counting?

  • Pippygirl

    Why shouldn’t Nigel have believed that meme? So did many media outlets as well as many hard core viewers.

  • Ari

    But the VOice panel does give off an air of modern and current. Harry Connick really doesnt. Plus I dont know how id feel as a contestant when the person judging me is lip syncing on stage

  • Ari

    JLO turned the deal down last year didnt she? What I dont understand is if theyre trying to cut costs, why bring the Brinks truck back to JLO…Im sure shes making more than Connick and Urban combined…Yet I dont know she will save the sh ow. Some amazing buzz worthy contestants who are out of this world…or some Susan Boyle type – or someone who is really different type of singer – would give Idol the attention it desperately needs

  • Stooch

    A good leader won’t given in to noise coming from the talking heads ;)

  • Bluebeat

    Its his fault for not changing the panel. I remember reading about this interview in 2011, when he said that the show didn’t need to change its ‘format’ because it was just fine. He really needed to wake-up…the show is getting old. Its not the judges.

  • windmills

    Idol has always had a judge who is supposed to represent the performance aspect, who isn’t a great singer (Paula in the original 3). I don’t have a problem with JLo as a judge in that respect and at her best, she has given some strong performance critiques.

    The Voice panel does have a current vibe but that hasn’t yielded a CHR hitmaking contestant yet and I don’t think it will (and I don’t think Idol’s chances of another CHR hitmaker are too high either, regardless of who’s on the panel). I think people watching all these shows are for the most part looking for something mainstream that they’re not getting much of at radio.

    Harry Connick Jr may not give off a current vibe but that is offset by JLo and Keith’s recent/current relevance in their respective formats IMO.

    The point I was trying to make is that I don’t think Idol chasing The Voice’s judge model is the solution for the show. The judges on Idol have a different role – there’s a separation between them and the contestants, and Idol thrives on that dynamic sometimes being antagonistic.
    The most important thing about casting the judges IMO was casting people who weren’t going to get in the way of the season like the Mariah-Nicki dynamic did. This panel looks like an improvement in that record but we’ll see. But there are other more important issues Idol needs to address to make for better TV and a better contestant platform.

  • DragonFly

    **it happens—to the Best Of & most nvr get an opportunity to publicly defend themselves. Overconfidence in success of the show leading to manipulation (not just the past season) had it’s limits imo.
    Jimmy needed also to lightly mentor w/a slightly raised eyebrow on occasion rather than becoming Larger Than Necessary on & off-air. Idols can wait until signing to be thrown a “curveball” who they SHOULD BE in other’s opinions–lol, but not. Contestants I agree are likely prescreened & prejudged to kind of know who they want to present themselves as by the time they reach Top 10. They have enough work to get a performance ready for live tv over & over in only a wk’s time besides other expected activities in betw. Don’t think they need heavy-handed mentoring to add to their outrageously, fast-paced come-out-like-a-winner performances every wk.

  • gem2477

    I think it was irresponsible to hire Nicki considering the backlash she got from the day she was mentioned. They still are hating on Nicki on AI’s FB page.

  • gem2477

    The songbooks aren’t totally his problem. A lot of modern music can’t be used because the artist won’t let them cause they are still trying to make money off the song.The Voice has that same problem, too.

  • gem2477

    I would be upset if I were Nigel. They fire him for not having good ideas and being stale, but then they go and do what he wanted, anyway.

  • Incipit

    Is that what they fired him for? I hadn’t seen that story. I figured he got fired for the sudden extra low ratings costing them ad money. It doesn’t have to be deeper than that, when corporations are involved,


  • gem2477

    true, but I think low ratings and less add money = bad ideas in their mind. I think he was kind of a scape goat, to be honest. Many heads could have rolled (especially those who hired Nicki), but they chose his.

    Could be wrong, but that it was I thought.