- - Sunday, November 27, 2011

'Idol' producer Lythgoe promises no big changes

“American Idol” executive producer Nigel Lythgoe said viewers shouldn’t expect any major changes when the hit Fox TV show returns in January after undergoing an extensive makeover last season, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Lythgoe, who helped transform Britain’s “Pop Idol” into the American TV juggernaut in 2002, returned as executive producer last season to usher in the post-Simon Cowell era. That ended a two-year hiatus that allowed him to focus on “So You Think You Can Dance,” which he produces and helps judge.

For the 10th “American Idol” season, Mr. Lythgoe introduced new judges, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, to join holdover Randy Jackson. Veteran music producer Jimmy Iovine, chairman of Interscope-Geffen-A&M, was brought in as an in-house mentor for the contestants. All of them are back for Season 11, Mr. Lythgoe said.

“I think we made a lot of tweaks last year,” he said. “I’m not sure that we want to make too many more tweaks this year.”

Mr. Lythgoe said the most significant change introduced last year had nothing to do with the judges: It was a decision to avoid those fish-out-of-water moments that forced very talented singers to sing in styles that didn’t suit them.

“The biggest change we made last year was to say, ‘OK, if you’re a country singer you can sing any of these genres in your country style,’ ” Mr. Lythgoe said. ” ‘We’re not going to force you to do rock or anything you can’t do. You can take a Michael Jackson song and turn it country.’ “

That resulted in singers such as Casey Abrams and Haley Reinhart advancing deeper into the competition than they might have in previous years. The two teenage finalists, Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina, were country singers.

Mr. McCreery, the first pure country “Idol” winner since Carrie Underwood in 2005, saw his October release, “Clear As Day,” make him the only country act to debut at No. 1 with a studio album on the Billboard 200 chart. The 18-year-old also became the youngest man to open at the top of the chart, and he was the first competition winner to start his post-“Idol” career with a No. 1 album since Ruben Studdard in 2003.

Mr. Lythgoe said last year the show found “some incredible talent, and it was so diverse.”

“We got this great jazz singer in Casey, we got a soft jazz singer in Haley, and the two country children [in the finals] probably in previous years wouldn’t have been as successful because they would have been asked to sing in the different styles that we used to do then,” he said.

Mr. Lythgoe said he expects similar results in Season 11.

“The children that have auditioned this year that we’re going to be taking to Hollywood in December are again really talented and really diverse,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll get through one of the toughest auditions, which is the Hollywood week, and get themselves into the top 20.”

Mr. Lythgoe said he believes “Idol” should be “totally about the talent” and the recent changes foster that.

“For me,” he said, “it’s really showing the talent that is here and not trying to take somebody who’s talented, beat them around the bucket and turn them out.”

Gaga Thanksgiving special boosts ratings for ABC

On a quiet Thanksgiving evening, specials, movies and repeats ruled the roost.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the highest-profile program airing on prime time was Lady Gaga’s much-anticipated (and hyped) 90-minute Thanksgiving special, which the singer conceived and directed herself.

Featuring a slew of performances (one with Tony Bennett) and an interview conducted by Katie Couric, “A Very Gaga Thanksgiving,” with 5.5 million viewers, proved to be beneficial for ABC, boosting the network’s time period performance from last year, when it aired a Beyonce music special. The 90-minute special helped ABC post its best Thanksgiving ratings since 2007. “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” drew slightly more viewers at 8 p.m., luring 5.7 million.

But “A Very Gaga Thanksgiving” was not the most-watched program of the night. That honor goes to CBS, which dominated, even with reruns of top-rated and most-watched “The Big Bang Theory” (11.2 million viewers) and “Rules of Engagement” (7.9 million viewers). An encore of “Person of Interest” (8 million viewers) topped the 9 p.m. hour and a rerun of “The Mentalist” (7.8 million viewers) also helped the network win the night.

Fox followed CBS, while ABC placed third. NBC, airing “Horton Hears a Who,” placed fourth. The CW followed.

Kardashian wedding musician: Event lacked ‘authenticity’

In light of the divorce filing just 72 days after Kim Kardashian married Kris Humphries, their wedding has come under scrutiny, with one of the performers at the event is saying he felt something was definitely wrong with the nuptials, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

“Honestly, in retrospect, I’ve got to admit it didn’t feel right,” Grammy-nominated saxophone player Dave Koz told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

Mr. Koz was at the highly publicized Santa Barbara event in August, which eventually aired as a two-part special on E! in early October. He performed “Know You By Heart” and “Here Comes the Bride” as the wedding party walked down the aisle.

“I’ve played a lot of weddings,” he recalled. “Of course, this is a television show. But it felt like it was a scene from a wedding, like a movie and not an actual wedding, if that makes sense. Who knows whether they were in love or not, but it just didn’t seem to have authenticity in that moment for me.”

Funk group Earth, Wind & Fire and singer Robin Thicke also performed at the event. The E! special attracted more than 8 million viewers combined over the two nights.

Miss Kardashian’s quickie divorce caused many to rehash accusations that the wedding was a hoax and placed the entire Kardashian family in the spotlight as they defended the earnestness of the relationship.

Miss Kardashian couldn’t escape the scrutiny during an unfortunately timed business trip to Australia the same week she filed for divorce and cut the trip short. She soon traveled to Atlanta to shoot her scenes for the Tyler Perry movie, “The Marriage Counselor.”

Compiled from Web and wire reports.

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