TV Week Interview: The Top 7

Chuck Ross of  TV Week interviews producer Nigel Lythgoe about this week’s Top 7 performance show.

Nigel explains tonight’s results show gimmick, “I’m going to split the group into the highest voting group and the lowest voting group, and then I’m going to take one of them and say, ‘congratulations, you’re safe, go and join the group that is safe’ and have them make the decision.” (me: they’ve done a variation of this every year since  Season 3 during Top 7 week)

When Chuck asked if there was a surprise tonight, Nigel said, “I don’t deal in surprises Chuck, I deal in reality.”

Nigel Lythgoe attempts to clear up the controversy  that’s been brewing all day around Simon Cowell’s  “eye roll” after Chris Richardson’s post-performance  condolences  (not until after he had some words with Simon)  to his fellow Virginians regarding the VA  Tech tragedy.   Nigel becomes pretty angry, to the point where he  begins to ramble midway through.   Here is his entire screed verbatim:

 “I sit very close to Simon, and I didn’t hear Chris mention about VA Tech.   Simon was actually talking–you’ll be able to see it tonight–I’ve taken out the raw footage and we’re actually going to show it.” (me:   this is much too much to do about nothing.  Simon can be a prick, but he’s obviously  not heartless. Simon already addressed this last night–no need to beat the issue to death)

What upsets me a great deal about this…is who on earth would make a face about Virginia Tech? Nobody. So…this disparaging remark that’s been said about it is just disgusting…Simon was talking about the row he was having with Chris when Chris was saying he sings nasally and he does it on purpose.   Simon says, I didn’t understand, and Paula is listening to what Chris is saying, Simon isn’t–he’s talking across it…and I’ll actually show it on tonight’s show and put and end to this.   These naysayers either have a thing against Idol, or Simon and  just need to shut up.” (me: what naysayers? Most of the controversy, at least on this board has been around whether Chris’s shoutout was sincere, or pandering for votes)

Especially in a situation like this where the whole country is devastated by something. So, to condemn Simon for doing that…nobody whatsoever would do that.   We’ll see it tonight, I don’t have to clarify anything…the footage speaks for itself.   Simon is talking through it and he’s talking about the conversation he just had with Chris and doesn’t listen to what Chris is saying and he’s reacting to his conversation with Chris.”

Nigel says that it [VA Tech] was “all discussed before the show.   I was not one that really wanted to mention the situation…as far as I’m concerned, we’re an entertainment show, we should be taking people away from the tragedies of their lives.   However, we all felt at the end of the discussion that we had to take the mood of the country into consideration, and the country was thinking  about this terrible disaster…and we discussed the politics of it, we even discussed the gun laws and the amount of other students that are dying for various other reasons across the country, and there are thousands of them, that the country’s focus is on these 33 terrible, tragic victims.   So, we decided that we would mention it.”

(me: actually according to this EW Popwatch account  from a reporter who was watching in the studio, the decision was laid at Ryan’s feet: “About 12 minutes before airtime, Idol stage manager Debbie announced to the room that the show’s opening would be different tonight, per Ryan’s request, to acknowledge the fatal shootings at Virginia Tech. ‘So many people watch us that he felt it was necessary to say something, ‘ she explained.”)   Nigel continues, “It’s very sad, therefore, that Simon catch this…situation…”

Nigel on each of the contestants:

  • Phil Stacey – “It’s a great song.   We did it first season with all the Idols in a special in Vegas. I love the song, I thought he did a wonderful rendition of it, and Randy was saying he has a career in country.   Who would have thought.”
  • Jordin Sparks – “I thought she did a very good job on it, I loved Simon saying you have the opportunity now of becoming the next Idol, very very strong comment from Simon.   And one that was probably justly deserved.”
  • Sanjaya Malakar – Chuck begins laughing before he can even get the name out. “What I think was a little tough was that he wanted to make Bonnie Raitt proud. The one great thing about Bonnie Raitt song…it’s sexy, it’s a little bit naughty it’s a bit racy…it’s a fun song…he just did it so sweetly.   It just didn’t work for me.
  • Lakisha Jones – “I think [the judges] were right from where I was sitting. As soon as she got to the chorus it sounded very very loud, to the point…that she was shouting it almost. I think she got an adrenalin rush…whether she couldn’t hear herself properly…I don’t know…it really came across as a scream.”
  • Chris Richardson – “I liked it, I must say. It’s funny with Chris, he likes his musicians around him.   He had his fiddle player and his banjo player last night…I liked the song, I like Rascal Flatts…I liked it.”
  • Melinda Doolittle – “It’s amazing, she came out there, she never feels like she has to do anything, she doesn’t have to sort of have the big finish, she doesn’t have to shout or scream in the middle of it. She just sang the song.   And the song was almost like a rock n’ roll country song, wasn’t it? Yeah, it was great, I wanted to jive.”
  • Blake Lewis – “I don’t know the song.   I didn’t think it was one of Blake’s best, and I think Blake is one of our best.   But, it didn’t knock me out last night. Sometimes Blake just oversings for me a little bit, he just holds the notes a little bit…like when he did “Mack the Knife, ” I think that should be bitten a bit more and a bit more style made with it. I love Blake when he did…my favorite Blake is the Zombies I think.”   Chuck wonders if  it’s his age, that  as he matures as a singer he might, “get more into those nuances that you mentioned.”   Nigel says, “He’s very headstrong, he will do what he wants to do. And often like we’ve seen across the board this season, when the mentors say ‘don’t hold that note’ or ‘hold that note’ the kids make their own decision at the end of the day…hey, what does Tony Bennett know about singing.”
About mj santilli 35006 Articles
Founder and editor of, home of the awesomest fan community on the net. I love cheesy singing shows of all kinds, whether reality or scripted. I adore American Idol, but also love The Voice, Glee, X Factor and more!