"Idol" producer says show back from dark side

Tue Feb 1, 2011 11:37pm EST
 
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By Shirley Halperin

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - "American Idol" season 10 just started, but if you think Nashville auditioner Lauren Alaina has the contest in the bag, executive producer Nigel Lythgoe says just you wait.

"You haven't really seen how strong the talent is yet," he cautions. "We can afford to lose 10 great ones this year because they're that good!"

It's a good reminder to all "Idol" worshipers that the show doesn't really get going until the live episodes.

Lythgoe, returning to a rebooted "Idol" after a two-year break, recently took a few minutes away from editing the show to talk to The Hollywood Reporter.

WHY DO YOU THINK PEOPLE ARE SO HARD ON IDOL?

Nigel Lythgoe: Because it is such a huge phenomenon. You're always going to question it, you're always going to say, "Oh, the ratings are going down." The amount of people who have told me to give it up now that Simon's gone -- "That's it, it's all over!" It's never been about Simon (Cowell). The show is in seventy-odd other countries where it's been hugely successful without Simon in it. But Idol has gone dark over the years. When we started being mercilessly cruel and saying things like, "Give up, don't ever sing." Even the banter between Ryan Seacrest and Cowell got quite dark, and I think people just went with it. We just needed to bring back the fun to it, and that's what's happened now -- it's fun again.

SO YOU'RE HAPPY WITH REACTION TO THE NEW SEASON SO FAR?

Yes. The talent is so much stronger this year, you haven't really seen it yet, and I think (new judges) Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez are both stars in their own right. You forget that we've had this train wreck that was following Simon, and then Simon disassociated himself from the show over the last few years, turned his back on the strange people they brought in to judge. So I knew it was going to be better than people expected. To have lost our star and to be in our tenth season is remarkable. It's broken more records than any other program, including MASH. It's stunning, but at the end of the day, it comes down to talent.   Continued...