Don’t expect Bacharach, Motown and British Invasion themes for Season 13 of American Idol. That’s because executive producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick are exiting Fox’s reality behemoth amid sagging ratings and a planned overhaul of the program during its current off-season, The Wrap reported earlier today.
The duo have been with Idol since its launch in 2002 — though Lythgoe left the program during its eighth and ninth seasons, then returned in Season 10.
A Fox spokesperson declined to comment on the Lythgoe-Warwick news, while a rep for FremantleMedia did not return a call from TVLine.
The outster of the show’s highest-level producers comes less than a week after Season 12 judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj announced they wouldn’t return to the show next year. Founding judge Randy Jackson made a similar statement in mid-May, followed by news that Fox reality chief Mike Darnell is also headed for the exit.
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Reports continue to circulate that Fox is planning a panel comprised entirely of former Idol contestants, most likely Jennifer Hudson, Kelly Clarkson and either Adam Lambert of Clay Aiken, though most sources indicate these decisions are not set in stone, particularly with so much flux at the executive level.
Lythgoe still serves as executive producer and head judge for Fox’s summer reality competition So You Think You Can Dance.
With new producers about to take the reins of The House That Kelly Clarkson Built, here are three crucial philosophies they must maintain during the overhaul process:
1) Don’t just say that the show is about the contestants, prove it. That means the ratio of singing-to-critiquing should favor the former activity, not the latter, a balance with which the show has increasingly struggled in recent incarnations. (Cutting back from four judges to three would be a good place to start.)
2) Don’t think you can restore viewership by copying The Voice‘s coach-driven format. Part of what has made Idol great is watching young, unproven vocalists either soar or stumble based on their own instincts — and it’s perhaps why Idol still reigns as the one true hitmaker among reality singing competitions. In other words, Idol‘s basic concept is still appealing, it’s the execution that needs an overhaul.
3) It’s time to reconsider unlimited voting. Nobody — seriously, nobody — is impressed or excited by hearing Ryan Seacrest announce vote tallies of 15 million or 30 million or 50 million. They’re just meaningless numbers that remind the core audience that their votes — and their investment in the competition — has been negated by power-texters and speed-dial-aholics. Putting a 20-vote cap on every phone, computer and mobile device would be a good place to return a truly democratic feel to the proceedings — and could even shake up the types of winners that wind up getting the confetti shower at the end of each season.
Glad that Idol is making changes at the top, or will you miss Lythgoe and Warwick’s touch? Sound off in the comments, and for all my Idol news, interviews and commentary, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!