Idol Boss Nigel Lythgoe: Expanded Judges' Power Unlikely, Critiques Won't Be 'Too Harsh'

American Idol Ratings DownAmerican Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe is well aware that the show’s ratings have slipped a little in its current 11th season, but don’t expect him to start panicking. “Whatever bad press we’re getting about these ratings, my God the rest of the [networks] would love [to have these numbers],” he said. Lythgoe also answered questions about Idol‘s judging panel — and whether or not he’s considering giving them more power over who gets eliminated — as well as the show’s newest crop of competitors:

There Are No Plans to Reduce Viewer Control of the Proceedings | In the wake of last season’s shock boot for early front-runner Pia Toscano, Lythgoe had mentioned the idea of changing Idol‘s lowest-vote-getter-goes-home system to something along the lines of So You Think You Can Dance or The X Factor (where the Bottom 2 take part in a sing-off, and the judges decide who goes home). Now, however, he seems to be backing away from tinkering with Idol‘s long-standing formula. When I pointed out that once the Top 12 is named, Idol stands apart from its competitors by placing contestants’ fate solely in viewers’ hands, Lythgoe responded thusly: “We have survived for 11 years… Why on earth would we start to look at other things to put in there? I have no idea.”

The Judges’ Save Will Likely Remain a One-Night-Only Affair | When a reporter noted that Randy Jackson was quoted recently as hinting that the judges might be allowed to veto more than one elimination in Season 11, Lythgoe said that on the contrary, he hasn’t decided if they’ll have any veto power at all. “The judges do not have any more than one save at this time,” he added. “[Randy] may have misunderstood. It wouldn’t be the first time.”

Nigel Wishes Nothing But the Best for His Two Competitors | American Idol is now in the history books, and it will remain there,” Lythgoe said. “Let’s hope all of the other shows like X Factor and The Voice continue to be successful for 11 years. I’ll celebrate. I worship talent. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for them. But 11 years is a long time.”

That Doesn’t Mean He’s Above Tossing the Occasional Barb Their Way | The Voice has “a fun format, and it’s very gimmicky — which is very interesting at this moment in time,” argued Lythgoe, who added he’s a big fan of the relationship between rival coaches Adam Levine and Blake Shelton. “Other than that, I think they need stronger talent. We’ll see.” Later, Lythgoe added that The Voice‘s pool of contestants seems heavy on “talent that hasn’t quite made it.” He also made a case for why Idol viewers shouldn’t abandon ship: “If what you want is real good talent without gimmicks, without fireworks going off, without flashing lights — just bloody good talent on the stage — then watch American Idol, because that’s what you’re gonna get.”

Jimmy Iovine Will Return — and He Won’t Be Alone | “Jimmy’s going to do exactly what he did last year,” Lythgoe said of the Interscope chairman and Idol mentor. “Plus we’re going to have guest mentors as well.”

Don’t Expect Brutal Critiques from J.Lo, Steven, or Randy Once the Live Shows Begin | Idol‘s judging panel is comprised of “artists dealing with other artists” — and for J.Lo and Steven in particular, there’s a feeling of “my fans won’t love me if I’m too harsh.” Lythgoe reasoned that his judges “are as honest as I think they can be for themselves, and at the same time as supportive as they want to be for the artists.” A record exec like Iovine or Simon Cowell, on the other hand, can view everything through the harsh prism of “‘Can you make me money?'”

Hollywood Week Will Be as Brutal as Ever | When contestants crash spectacularly, said Lythgoe, one of two things is usually to blame: “Stupidity or dehydration.”

The Audition Rounds Were Only the Tip of the Talent Iceberg |There are “a great many” members of Season 11’s eventual Top 24 that haven’t received airtime yet, teased Lythgoe, adding he hopes to show singing footage of every Season 11 semifinalist before the Green Mile episode has finished.

What do you think of Lythgoe’s view of the current Idol season? Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality TV news, interviews, and recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. karen o says:

    So…rehash of Season 10?

    • elr says:

      That is exactly what I was thinking, and i just kept thinking to myself what utter BS this is. If Idol fails I think a large part can be blamed on Nigel and his let’s not change anything mentality. He comes across as snarky and full of himself the longer the article goes on.

  2. Malcolm Davis says:

    Idol has many faults but no other show feels as inspirational and normal-to-star-esque as it and that’s why I love this show the most. I hope it’s a great season! I’m not too worried about anything.

    • Kristin says:

      Malcolm, you hit it right on the head! That’s what I love most about Idol, the fact that we get to watch people become stars and that it’s just a (generally) feel-good show.

  3. Bored says:

    “There’s a great many members of Season 11’s Top 24 that haven’t received airtime yet.” The question is WHY?!

    • Terry says:

      He probably said that because he’s heard the criticism that the talent is no good this year so he wants to let people know they haven’t seen the talent yet so keep tuning in. I’ll pass.

  4. Malcolm says:

    Perhaps their auditions weren’t that great. I would still want to see them but I’m guessing their line of reasoning is put the shining stars of each round in the forefront (and the ones they want to win) to make for more compelling TV and then leave it up to America.

    • Aisha says:

      Or they sang odd audition songs that Idol didn’t want to pay for clearance on.
      Or Idol is pushing their favorites by exposing America to them early so they can build a fanbase early on.

  5. J. Fisher says:

    at least we have these recaps and Idoloonies!!

  6. NedPepper says:

    Nigel, the Voice is killing your momentum because it feels fresh, it’s nowhere near as shallow or maninpulative, and there’s no sense of playing favorites. Unless the coaches like someone. Which, because they’re on their team, they’re SHOULD like them. Idol is bland because the idea of making fun of delusional people in the Audition rounds is BEYOND STALE. You need to spice up the show before you get to the top 12 and you need to SHOW THE TALENT. And the voting system is crap. It just is. Having the bottom two do a sing off and leaving in the judges hands (IE NOT YOURS!)is a better idea than the teen girl popularity contest that has turned your talent show into a dud.

    And Haley Reinhart should have won last year. Period. That’s all the proof I need that the show is broken.

    • elr says:

      I agree that the voting system is a big part of what is wrong with Idol. And I agree that you need to SHOW THE TALENT, but what I don’t agree with is when Nigel says that the judges won’t give harsh critiques. Because you know just as soon as a female contestant shows herself to be on the road to greatness that JLo will become pretty harsh.

    • Billy says:

      *And Haley Reinhart should have won last year. Period*
      Yep, that says it all.

    • Ben says:

      I pass on the voice. What a dumb idea to have two great contestants battling each other for one spot. The top 16 should be the best 16. Thats the problem with the voice, and x factor too (4 from each category). Idol has the best flexibility and generally comes out with the best talent. One year of The voice was enough for me – for many my guess is this is that year, but I expect its ratings to drop from year to year a lot quicker than idols (and lets not forget, coming off their post-super bowl episode, they are in the next episode only hitting idols season 11 ratings).

      • darcy's evil twin says:

        @Ben – I like the auditions on “The Voice” but those “battle rounds” are brutal. I posted this elsewhere but it was difficult for me to watch very good vocalists get sent home last season.

        • Ben says:

          Agree, I enjoyed the voice auditions. I do think Idol has the best audition format though (albeit far too long this year, 4 or 5 episodes is enough).

      • ohreli says:

        As much as I find The Voice entertaining, I agree that the rules are the show’s big achille’s heel! When those The Voice contestants look to choose a team, it probably matters less who the coach is, and more how sucky the other team members are! That is totally screwed-up when the contestants themselves are defeated by such an obvious flaw in the system. Fail!

  7. SharonM says:

    So in other words, the show will still suck.

  8. jess says:

    Wait, so American Idol is a show without GIMMICKS?!?!?!? Did I have a stroke and did Nigel actually say that?! WTF?! I can understand that Idol doesn’t want to leave the format they’ve been doing (voting system, sob story, etc) because “it worked for 11 yrs so why would we change?” but hello? Life has changed in the past 11yrs. Kelly Clarkson didn’t have millions of pre-pubescent girls voting on their smartphone non-stop 11 yrs ago! This guy is not living in reality…

    • Brigette says:

      I couldn’t believe when he said that. Yeah, there are NO gimmicks on Idol like Durbs setting a piano on fire, or the Hulk coming out on stage, or the relentless product placement…should I keep going?

    • Cari says:

      I almost cried laughing when I read that line about no gimmicks. I think he’s watching the wrong show.

  9. aunt_deen says:

    I haven’t watched a single audition show and it’s remarkably freeing. I plan on keeping up with places like this. If I hear great buzz about someone I’ll check them out on YouTube.
    But I cannot sit through another season of those “judges.”

    • Edward says:

      Ditto on this! I will NOT watch this show anymore. Simon leaving was the death of AI. I just don’t understand why Nigel thinks the judges can’t criticize in a constructive way. I would respect these “artists” (?) alot more if they should the ability to critique a performance instead of just be generically supportive. On SYTYCD, Nigel doesn’t run the judging that way.

    • Bad Breaker says:

      I love it. I haven’t watched any of the audition rounds this year either and it is indeed “remarkably freeing”…well said.

    • elr says:

      It’s the same with me. If there was a whole new judging panel I might (and that’s a BIG might) tune in.

  10. Danielle H says:

    Ug, can Fox just move on already? Make more original programming! Espcially when your channel already has an hour less then other channels.

  11. Lisa says:

    Wheres the bachelor recap?!

  12. Sabrina says:

    He has not watched if he thinks the talent on The Voice is not as good as that on AI. The talent on AI is immature and too young for the spotlight shown on them. The harsh and often insulting way the contestants is treated has become demeaning to watch at times (remember Iovine telling Haley well anything last year). The Voice really goes for the opposite, they only bring in real talent, mostly proven talent with maturity and the ability to understand the process and work involved. They nurture and coach the talent for weeks for each performance so the performances are well rounded and don’t seem rushed. Sorry, I prefer the mature version myself.

    • Owen says:

      Oh please. Scotty did extraordinarily well this year. The Voice’s winner….I just got a discount offer of 12 bucks to attend his concert.

      • Billy says:

        Do you realise that your contention lends credence to the theory that too many viewers/voters of singing talent shows are partially if not totally tone deaf?

        • Ben says:

          Do you realise this is one of the most arrogant comments I’ve ever seen on this forum? So let me say, as not just a trained musician with a music degree, but one that some of the best professional musicians in the country said had one of the best ears they have ever come across – there is nothing ‘tone deaf’ about liking Scotty McCreery and not liking Javier Colon, and its truly stupid to think that this accounts for people having a different view to you.

          • Billy says:

            Hey, Ben, guess what – you and I have the same thing in common! I’d bet my broken pinky finger that the *professional musicians* that praised our listening abilities are from polar opposite schools of musical background and education, though.

          • Ben says:

            Lol. I don’t believe you are a musician for a second. But even if you are – it doesn’t change the fact that your comment was arrogant. I’ve met some musical snobs in my time, but most pro musicians I know have a healthy respect for the subjective nature of the medium.

  13. Bad Breaker says:

    If Stephen and JLO are so afraid of alienating their fans by constructively criticizing the talent then perhaps they shouldn’t be judges.

    • Emma says:

      Yes, exactly, get somebody else instead of paying those “judges” millions to do nothing but promote their own albums & books & whatever the bleep else they’re trying to sell.

    • Angela says:

      Hear, hear!
      And yes, the voting system does need a massive overhaul. Every single season we have that, “OMG THEY GOT CUT EARLY!” moment. It’s so predictable by this point (and on the flip side, sometimes people freak over contestants being cut early that I really didn’t get the appeal of to begin with, but that’s personal opinion, of course). Course, why do people get so upset with those who get voted off early? They often do a lot better than the people who wind up winning.

  14. Eli says:

    “[Randy] may have misunderstood. It wouldn’t be the first time.”
    Haha, Randy is a moron, and Nigel knows it.

  15. Frank M. says:

    American Idol is the original and still the best!!! The Voice is a show for singers who apparently couldn’t find success on their own, i.e. back-up singers, Broadway understudies, ex-Mouseketeers, etc. The Voice is their last shot at a career, the winner from last year was fair at best and that was the reason he wasn’t successful already!! And his album sales and concert sales proved that!!! Say what you wanna say about American Idols but every season has had a breakout star even if they weren’t the winner!!! Grammys, Tony nominations and an Oscar have been all won by American Idol winners plus millions and millions of sales!! And The X-factor was just terrible!!!!

  16. Collette says:

    I love Idol, but I fear that we’ll end up with another teen heartthrob if they don’t limit the text voting.

  17. Rebecca Parker says:

    So basically this article convinced me not to watch American Idol anymore.
    Thanks, Nigel!

  18. Alienate says:

    They don’t need to fix too much to remain as compelling TV.
    That said, the ONE thing they MUST fix is the Unlimited Voting.
    I haven’t voted in 3 years because I feel it is a pure waste of time versus the millions of Tween girls texting 20 million votes a week.

    • Ron says:

      I’m not watching this year for two reasons:
      1. Because Randy Jackson is still a “judge”, and he is a joke. He never has an intelligent critique, and just fills his comments with cliches and ridiculous “Randyisms”.
      And 2. The voting system is so totally flawed that the best singer/performer doesn’t have a chance of winning if there is a cute guy that all the young girls fall in love with and flood the system with power-voting. One person being allowed to vote thousands of times is not fair, and distorts the actual, and true, preference of the viewing public.

      • Ben says:

        Of course, if you did any research into the voting systems that record preference on a fair basis (for instance,, you’d discover that even on a normalised basis, Scotty McCreery was the favourite to win every single week. Just because your personal favourite didn’t win, doesn’t mean the voting didn’t reflect the preference of the voting public. Added to which (although I do not hang out with teenage girls) I knew several Haley power-voters last year, and not a single Scotty powervoter *shrug*

        • Name That Tune says:

          So you don’t see anything wrong with a voting system that continues to produce the same winner – nonthreatening WGWG. For me, that’s the big yawn. We got to see a different type of winner & Finalists on both The X Factor and The Voice.
          Count me as a Scotty Power Voter at the end – only because there weren’t any real options left – it was one country artist vs. another, yawn. Let Idol die on its own petard

          • Ben says:

            I think it should be limited to one vote per person (or, like, 10 maximum)- because I see absolutely zero benefit to having the ability to power vote.
            But all I’m saying in the above comment is that people who say that Haley would have won if it wasn’t for the voting system don’t know what they are talking about. Haley made amazing strides in the middle part of the season, often ranking at 2, but Scotty was ranked number one week in week out – by fair voting systems. People who think the voting is heavily distorted, it’s a false perception.

  19. RTW says:

    Is it too soon to throw out conspiracy theories? WELL OF COURSE NOT! I have this prediction that idol is going to fight tooth an nail for a winner who is either female, non-white or a combination of both. If another WGWG wins, I think it’s going to look very, very bad for Idol. True, the X-Factor and the Voice may not be the juggernaut Idol is, but at least those shows can make the argument that in this day and age where viewership is predominately older women and young girls, the winner can be anybody. Last season, I came to the conclusion Scotty was largely helped in winning Idol (seriously, in all the Idol weeks he got one week of lukewarm criticism on his Swingin’ song choice, ONE!). But now that Idol founded their platinum selling artist and can claim they made it happen, my guess is what’s next in line to fix is the WGWG streak. BTW, I’m all for a winner who is NOT a WGWG, but I’m definitely interested in seeing just how far Nigel goes in making this happen.

    • Billy says:

      Heh, remember Scotty’s performance of Young Blood? In any rational scheme of things, he should have be skewered by all three judges and eliminated by the voting public the next night, just for that debacle. Idol is not supposed to by a stand up comedy show, but his performance of that song (as well as Country Comfort) was so pathetic it actually was funny.

      • Terry says:

        looky here *crazy eyes* looky there *crazy eyes*
        I knew when he wasn’t even in the bottom 3 after that horrid performance that he was going to win. It had gotten to the point where it didn’t matter what he sang or how bad he sang it, people were voting for him regardless because they liked him. But we all know idol has always been a popularity contest just as much as (if not moreso than) a singing contest.

  20. João Rafael says:

    Actually, I think Nigel knows what he’s doing. The show was declining until last year so obviously they will repeat the formula. Saving the front runners to HW also seems like a good idea so the fan bases are more spread. And I wouldn’t change a thing about the voting system. The americans do a pretty good job choosing the best contestants week after week. I would, however, like to see more criticism from the judges to help the contestants on their next performance. Also Scotty turned out to be a platinum seller and they couldn’t find a better contestant to do that. Let me add just another thought, last year I was rooting for Haley and after a year as passed I couldn’t ask for a better script. All the drama that was going on with the judges only made people vote even harder for her and like her more. She had all the time to make her album the way she should wanted instead of producing an inferior in a couple of months. Let me just hope I will shout to the TV again to bash Randy or JLO like I did last year because that is a good sign and good TV.

    • rab says:

      I’m not really a fan of McCreery’s, so I may not be totally up on his “success”, but according to Billboard his first album, Clear As Day” debuted at #1, and has sold 879,000 copies. I don’t think that puts him in the “platinum” category. I know it was certified platinum, because over a million units were shipped, but let’s be real, he has not sold 1 mil so, he is not a really platinum-selling artist. Let’s see how his second album does, then we can better judge his “success”

      • Name That Tune says:

        So they all get an initial boost in sales from the exposure that Idol gives them. Nobody would be interested in Scotty McC at this stage of his career if it weren’t for that. Let’s talk 5 years from now.

    • RTW says:

      That was perfectly stated, right down to the T. As much as I hated the drama, it really worked in Haley’s favor. Her journey through Idol is still very fresh in my mind and I don’t think I would’ve wanted it any other way. For me, it was either win it all or finish third so as not to be bound by the chains of Idol. There is no question…Idol IS the working of an evil genius.

  21. Pat says:

    After last season, there’s NO WAY IN HELL I want Randy freaking Jackson picking who gets to go home.
    If it were that way, we wouldn’t have Haley Reinhart.

  22. SevenTypesOfAmbiguity says:

    Two things from Nigel’s interview:
    Okay. so JLo & ST can’t say a negative thing about the artists. How about nixing one of them and placing a judge on the panel who can? I vote for eliminating ST and replacing him with Jimmy I or LA Reid.
    So we haven’t even seen some of the Top 24 yet. As a viewer, why should I waste my time on these endless audition rounds.

  23. darcy's evil twin says:

    Wow, there are lots of people here that either need more coffee or drank WAY too much!
    First of all, there was nothing wrong with last year’s winner, Scotty McCreery. I personally loved Haley, but Scotty is doing well and recently opened for Brad Paisley. Not bad. I hear him on country radio quite a bit. If you don’t like country music and he’s not your cup of tea, fine, but Scotty can sing, whether you like it or not.
    Randy’s taking a ton of criticism here, some of it deserved, but I seem to recall that last season there were times when he was the only one offering constructive criticism and was starting to say something besides “check it out, dude, you are in it to win it”. I would think J-Lo and Tyler (especially Tyler – Hell, he’s older than I am!) would be WAY past worrying about losing some of their fan base. Tyler was a HEROIN ADDICT for crying out loud and didn’t lose his fan base!
    Idol is what it is, and I agree with those that have commented it’s a great program if you enjoy seeing someone go from being “no one” to being a star,or potential star. The show has been a great vehicle for a lot of singers that didn’t win – Syesha Mercado toured with “Dreamgirls” and Constantine Maroulis (sp?) toured with “Rock of Ages”. My friends that saw “Rock of Ages” said Constantine was great.
    So, with that thought in mind I’ll get sucked in just like I always do and put up with inane judging comments to see some kids get a shot at stardom, or maybe just earning a living doing something they love. I’ll probably never get a bigger thrill than seeing David Cook win – that was one of the high points of the program for me!

  24. Aprilcot26 says:

    I don’t care *how* the judges are giving critiques as long as that’s what they’re actually doing and doing it accurately! Last year was one big love-fest for Scotty, Lauren, and the insufferable James Durbin! Every week they got glowing praise for less than stellar performances while solid competitors (most notably Haley) were continuously slammed in ridiculous fashion. I swear, a panel of monkeys could give better criticism than these three!

  25. Corinne says:

    To all the bitter Haley fans-get over it. It’s a new season, and I’m sure you will be tuning in, or at least watching some videos. Once you find somebody you like, you will be eating your words.

  26. Jake says:

    The Hollywood shows should be two hours long, I’d rather see that then an episode of mobbed. Ratings increase as the show goes later. Just look at the voice– at 9 it increased by 2 million. I don’t get why fox is showing us less idol this year

  27. GERI says:


  28. Nigel is so stubborn he needs to listen to these suggestions by fans about giving judges more power in the show. The future of these contestants depend on the show and him.
    So he doesn’t give a toss about the ratings drop what so ever? I’m really disappointed.