Feel-good "Idol" right for the times, producer says

Thu Feb 17, 2011 4:59pm EST
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Is "American Idol" and its new judging panel going soft this year?

Yes, says executive producer Nigel Lythgoe. Brutal honesty was the right tone when the TV talent show and Britain's Simon "Mr. Nasty" Cowell brought a breath of fresh air to U.S. television 10 years ago.

But times have changed, economically and socially, and that's why newcomers Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and old hand Randy Jackson sent a record 300 plus wannabe pop stars from nationwide auditions onto a second round in Hollywood this year.

"I believe these are times when we need to be warmer, brighter, and we need to think we have a future," Lythgoe told reporters on a conference call on Thursday.

"If we can translate that into kids coming on this show from flipping burgers one day to ending up as the star of a television series, then we are showing everyone there is a way out of our lives," Lythgoe said.

Lythgoe said judges and producers have been less harsh and more willing to give contestants a second chance in the early stages of the top-rated show. Some 60 contestants are still in with a chance of making it to the top 12.

"The judges this year have been particularly finicky and careful about giving people a second opportunity because they know everyone screws up with nerves," he said.

"American Idol" has undergone a major revamp in its 10th season following the exit of Cowell in May, four years of declining ratings for broadcaster Fox and lackluster record sales for recent winners.   Continued...

<p>Judges Steven Tyler (L), Jennifer Lopez (C) and Randy Jackson take part in a panel discussion for the show "American Idol" at the Fox Broadcasting Company Winter Press Tour 2011 for the Television Critics Association in Pasadena, California January 11, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson</p>