Idol Chit-Chat
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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

EP Nigel Lythgoe: "I don't think we should be defending ourselves"

Nigel Lythgoe is angry.

He’s the executive producer of the #1 show on television, but all people want to talk to him about are slipping ratings and those other two singing competition shows.

More than once today during a media conference call, Nigel let that anger show with impassioned speeches defending the “Idol” ratings and talent, as well as taking a few select shots at “The X Factor” and “The Voice.”

But before we get to that, let’s focus on what the call was actually about—Hollywood Week.

“I’m shocked that they still don’t realize how tough Hollywood Week is going to be,” he said. “They were just not drinking enough and they were dropping like flies.”

One contestant who dropped was Symone Black, who fell off the stage. “When she dropped, I watched myself walking to her in slow motion. You literally see her wobble. The cameraman tried to dive to catch her and the camera falls on top of him. I’m shouting for medics.”

Nigel also revealed that Amy Brumfield, aka Tent Girl, was ill and passed a bug around to some of the contestants. And in addition to not drinking enough during Hollywood Week, Nigel said contestants also didn’t get enough sleep. “The ones that sucked were the ones that went to bed at 3:45 in the morning.”

One part of Hollywood Week will be on the Elvis stage in Las Vegas. The remaining contestants will sing songs from the late 50s and 60s including hits from Buddy Holly and, of course, Elvis.

The Green Mile episode (where the Top 24 are named) was shot at Le Reve in Vegas. That’s also where contestants will perform solo with a single instrument of their choosing (They can play it or someone else will). Though Nigel didn’t refer to it as that, I’m guessing that’s the Judges’ Performance Challenge we’ve been hearing about.

But other than that, there won’t be any changes in the Hollywood process—or the entire show for that matter. “There are no changes to the format at this time,” Nigel said. “I don’t see it needs changes.”

Nigel did address the issue of not seeing contestants on the show until the Top 24 when it’s time to vote. “We’re constantly trying to make sure everybody in the finals are shown by the end of the Green Mile process. There’s an awful lot you haven’t seen yet.”

So now to those ratings questions that just kept coming up today:

“I’m thrilled, after 11 years, with those ratings. Of course there’s going to be some deterioration. There are two other shows feeding from the same talent. It dilutes our audience. With ‘X-Factor’ sitting there, it feels like two ‘Idol’ seasons on FOX. Of course there’s going to be fatigue…After 11 years, I don’t think we should be defending ourselves…We have survived for 11 years, my god, the rest of the world would love these ratings. ‘American Idol’ is now in the history books and it will remain there. If what you want is bloody good talent, then watch ‘American Idol’ because that’s what you’re going to get.”

See what I mean?

Here are some of the other things Nigel had to say today:

On Jimmy Iovine: “He’s coming back to do exactly what he did last year. There will be guest mentors as well.

No one asked Nigel, but I fully expect Madonna on the show since she’s now part of the Interscope family…

On “The Voice”: It’s a fun format. It’s very gimmicky. I like the relationship between Blake and Adam…I think they need stronger talent.”

On the difficulty of the judging process for the judges: “You’re dealing with artists dealing with other artists. The process is extremely difficult…A record executive is thinking, how can you make me money? Artists are thinking I remember when I took criticism for that. They are as honest as they can be for the show and as supportive as they can be for the artist.”

Nigel referred to a final 12, but I’m betting that number is not determined yet…

On this year’s talent: “I loved last year because of the diversity of talent. I think the talent’s terrific [this year]. The diversity of talent is terrific…I haven’t always agreed with the judges’ choices…My favorite was cut in Las Vegas.”

On whether Nigel is concerned that the other singing competitions are diluting the talent pool: “I’m just blessed that America’s so big and has so much talent…‘The Voice’ is not feeding off that talent. Their focus seems to be on people who have almost made it.”

On “The X Factor”: “It didn’t really know what it wanted to do, I think”

On why Hollywood Week has a Group Day when it’s an individual competition: “At that point, everyone has a good voice. Now we’re looking for other things…We want to see how they cope with people, cope with harmonies. The choreography doesn’t matter…but it shows off their personalities.”

On Ryan Seacrest: “There can always be an ‘Idol’ without anybody…I believe that Seacrest is the best host in the business. Why he hasn’t won an Emmy, I have no idea. He’s the glue that fits it all together…They should try and sort out a deal.”

On whether the judges are getting more than one Judges’ Save: “We have not decided that, no…[We haven’t decided] if they’re getting one save.”

On why there have been more good auditions this year than the goofy bad ones: “We haven’t had in truth that many bad ones that have been bad fun…We’re a little bit more wary of how we treat people.”

On the key to the show’s success: “It’s about the talent, not the production, not the judges. The show is as strong or as weak as the talent we present to America.”

Hollywood Week begins Wednesday night at 8 on FOX. It’s the one time all season I’m bummed that the episode is only an hour…

Photo Credits: Patrick Ecclesine/FOX, Michael Becker/FOX & Sam Jones/FOX