American 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!