Part 2 With Exec. Producer Nigel Lythgoe

     January 15, 2006

Posted by Frosty


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N. Lythgoe;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; Exactly right; anybody that isn’t boring.; I will not bore people with the hundreds of thousands of people that we have to see.; I’m there to make a good television show, we don’t have the time to show you a hundred thousand people. ;I want the very best and the very worst, and that gives us a good cross section of the areas that we go to.

L. Streeter;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; Actually I was going to ask again about the guest judges.; Do you have favorite guest judges that have been on?; Over the ones that you have had in the last couple of seasons, I know you said you didn’t have one.; I thought that Quentin Tarrantino was awesome, because he did…

N. Lythgoe;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; Yes, I must say I thought he was too.; I think he was very bright, very sharp, very succinct, and came out with good replies in the banter with the resident judges.; Yes, very pleased with him.; Tremendous.

L. Streeter;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; Also, you were talking about the ages of people and the young people.; Some of the weaker singers, I think, have been some of the very youngest people.; Have you ever thought of raising the age?

N. Lythgoe;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; Don’t necessarily agree with you.; Don’t forget Donna DeGarmo was 16.; She was a finalist.; I think nerves play a great deal into their performances as well.; We didn’t have that many 16 year olds last year, but this year we have again.; There’s a bunch that we’re looking at and reviewing now.; It’s just different every year.; That is the one thing you know people say, “What have you changed this year?”; Well, we changed the talent, to be honest.; That is the one thing that makes the show.

Coordinator;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; We now have a question from Michael Starr with the New York Post.; Please go ahead.

M. Starr;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; I was actually going to ask you a question about is there any sort of drama among the contestants themselves, any love affairs springing up, any arguments?; But I don’t think you guys are at that point yet where they…

N. Lythgoe;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; Oh, yes, we are, and we have seen—yes, there are.; Well, I’ve never heard kids blame other kids on stage to their faces before, and that has occurred this season.; I have never heard people quit on stage in front of everybody and give the judges a mouthful, and say, “And I’m quitting the show because of what you have said, or what you have done,” and that has occurred.; Everybody seems to have more attitude this season.; And I don’t know how to put this nicely, so you’ll have to bleep me or something, but I have never seen people willing to shit on other people as much as this crowd.; And Simon has always hit the nail on the head and said, “You don’t believe that.; You really hate these people, you want to get rid of them.”; And they go, “No, we love each other, no we all love…”; “No you don’t.; You’re in a competition and only one person can be the idol.”; And they always go, “No, we love each other.”; Well, not this crowd.

M. Starr;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; You mentioned before that the top 24, it hasn’t gotten that far yet, as far as whittling it down and all that…?

N. Lythgoe;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; No, but we’ve done the Hollywood week.; And the Hollywood week includes that wonderful time, one of my favorite parts of the series, where we put them in the little vocal groups and they have to rehearse all night.; They are absolutely exhausted, and the tension between them is enormous, and we have got the frayed … nerves going on.; And this year they were foul-mouthed with each other.; I mean, thank god there weren’t any sharp instruments.

M. Calertho;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; Nigel, will American Idol ever reveal the weekly vote totals?


N. Lythgoe:;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; I don’t think so.; We do at the end of each of series, it is released, but not during the week.; If you knew, for instance, that Clay Aiken was so far ahead every week, it would be a waste of time watching.; You wouldn’t vote for anybody else because you would think, well, he’s never going to win; no one else is going to win.; He is so far ahead of the game. And yet that didn’t happen on the finale for whatever reason.; And I think a lot of that was to do with Kimberly Locke’s votes went to Rueben as well, when they couldn’t vote for Kimberly.; But if you had known those results each week, you just wouldn’t have bothered voting.; He was that far ahead, is what I’m trying to say.

M. Calertho;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; When you say you release them at the end of each season, I have never seen a list.; Where do you release them?

N. Lythgoe:;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; I honestly don’t know.; That’s what I did in the UK.; We released the figures, but I don’t if Fox does that.

M. Calertho;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; Okay, because I would think we would have big charts everywhere with people.; Well, were you surprised when Fantasia revealed in her book that she is functionally illiterate?; I was surprised that she could make it through the show and win without being able to read.

N. Lythgoe:;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; Yes, well, I’ve been in the business a long time, and I know some very fine actors, some very good comedians, that I would never have dreamt couldn’t; read.; And so they’ve gone home at nights and had their partner take them through the parts if you like, and then hidden it.; So I wasn’t surprised, this goes on all the time.; It’s just quite shocking to think that a lot of people—and probably I could names now to you, in fact, you would go, “No.”;; They get through life.; Either through illiteracy or ignorance, they have not learned to read, or dyslexia.; And yet somehow they get through life and hide it.; Remarkable.

M. Calertho;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; I keep thinking of maybe a moment on the show where Ryan would have handed Fantasia a list and said, “Tell us what the theme is this week,” or something.

N. Lythgoe;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; Oh, absolutely.; It has gone on all the time.; We never do it for their own personal songs, because if they screw up, they have to live with that screw up and carry on out with the performance.; But when we sort of learn a song in a day, a group song, we put the lyrics up on the teleprompter.;

M. Calertho;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; One more follow up then I’ll let someone else have a go.; When the season is over, and the contestants get sort of kicked out of the nest, it seems to me like they face even greater challenges than they do on the show, because here is the career, and they’re visible and they have to handle it.; Who, in your opinion, has handled the TV fame best and used it to the most advantage as a springboard?

N. Lythgoe:;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; Oh, it’s a tough one.; People spring up all the time that we know.; Like Jennifer Hudson getting the part in Dream Girls;; Kelly Clarkson obviously has gone from strength to strength.; It’s a tough one, because I don’t personally follow up on everybody that comes through.;Once you are in that top ten, you do pretty well, because you’re taken through on the American Idol Tour, which again, we have nothing to do with, but that takes them right through until the end of the year.; Then after that, really they’re sort of thrown out of the nest.; Rightly so really, it’s a good way of putting it.; There is always a system in place here where they can telephone somebody and speak to a counselor.; That’s always there for them.; We have two on the program.; And some use that just as a, I don’t what to do now that this is all gone away.

M. Calertho;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; Can you tell in advance which ones are going to be able to handle it?; Like I’m thinking of like little Camille Velasco who just cried every week, cried, cried, cried.; It was some good TV, but again, I was just like, “Oh, gosh.”; Can you tell as you watch them grow and go through the process, who will be a good professional?;

N. Lythgoe:;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; As I’ve said before, this thing grows through the period of time that they’re with us.; And people either grow or fall by the wayside.; But if this is their dream, if they want to be in the business, we are a really easy program.; We are really warm and helpful and everything else.; You go on an awards show or you do something else in the business or go on tour alone, without that support, you’re going to have a really tough time.;So this is an ease-in.; It’s a microcosm in the life of a celebrity, if you like, because it all happens so quickly, and you’re swept up in it, and there’s no time to think because you’re learning your next song.; But there is a whole support team here for them.; So I never worry about anybody crying on the show, that’s a natural thing.; I sobbed my heart out on bloody King Kong the other day.; That’s a natural process that we go through, and of course we capture on the television show.; The background checks show up an awful lot of problems.; If someone is going to have major problems, the background checks that we do throw that up before us.

AJ Hammer;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; So can you set the record straight for me on the deal with Thursday nights?; Because the rumors obviously were floating around and you are going to do some shows on Thursday nights.; Was there a chance that you were going to move the show and why and blah, blah, blah?

N. Lythgoe:;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; I can’t AJ, I really can’t.; As far as I’m aware, we are doing Tuesday/Wednesday.; We’re doing, as we did last year, we’re doing three nights a week, because we have to the boys show of top 12 and the girls show top 12 and then the results show, which is when it will go across the three-nights.; But that is for a period of three weeks only.

AJ Hammer;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; So was there talk at a time, though, of perhaps making Thursday night, which obviously is the big dollar night and also the big competition night, one of the regular nights?;

N. Lythgoe:;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; AJ, I can’t answer that question.; As far as I’m aware, and I’m not being glib here, American Idol night was the big dollar night.; So I know nothing about Thursday nights being the big dollar night.; If everything I’m led to believe, American Idol gets paid for 30 seconds.; I would say whenever

M. Calertho;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; Hi, Nigel, just one more. ;As you were talking about the background checks, where does Idol draw the line with what will get you kicked off the show?

N. Lythgoe;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; I think each case is taken individually, Mary.; It isn’t a question of, all right these are the rules set down.; I think everything is reviewed.; A lot of the things we know about.; The hardest thing I think in the world is to go and do a background check on people to try and find out what they have done in their past.; The easiest thing is put them on television.; Because you can guarantee that between five or ten of their closest friends are going to call probably one of you guys up or Smoking Gun up and just go through every little nuance of their life, and what they’ve done in the past.; That is a problem with any reality show in any country in the world. So all we can do is say, “Be honest with us.”; Do the normal background checks that you can, and then say, “Be honest with us.”; Most of the time they are.; So when somebody has been involved in say, domestic violence, in parking tickets fines, moving violations, whatever, we know about it.; And we say, “Will that affect them becoming the American Idol?”; Generally, if they’re on the show, it doesn’t.;On other occasions, things happen or things come to light, which we knew nothing about, Frenchie for instance, and we say, No, I’m sorry.”; We have to cut them from the program.

L. Streeter;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; Is there any song that has been repeated a lot with contestants that you personally, Nigel, would like to never, ever hear again?

N. Lythgoe;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; Not if they sing it well.; There really isn’t.; I mean, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” we have had a hundred times, Alicia Keys, “Fallen,”; “Natural Woman.”; I mean, some people just can’t sing these songs, and you just say, “I never want to hear that again,” until you hear somebody sing it brilliantly, and then you go, “That’s a great song.” So, not really, I just want people to realize—and it’s not possible, because we’re all deluded, in this sense—I want people to realize they can’t sing a Whitney Houston song and sound like Whitney Houston, or they can’t sing Celine Dion and sound like Celine Dion.; And the worst was Brittney Spears years ago, where everyone came with a slightly affected, “Oh, baby, baby… ” Nobody sings like that.; I mean, that was done with a production, and god knows, not very well.; And they come in and they try and repeat that sort of vocal, and you go, “Oh, for god’s sake, how stupid.” Let me hear you.; Let me hear whatever your name is.; Let me hear what you’re bringing, because we’ve got these people.; They’re there.; They’re stars.; We’re not doing the copy cat show, you know.; Thank you all very much.

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