TCA Press Tour

'Idol' Producer: 'We Made Mistakes'

At TV's summer press tour, Nigel Lythgoe admits that last season suffered by focusing more on famous mentors than on contestants -- and says the show can learn from ''So You Think You Can Dance''

NIGEL LYTHGOE ''We were so engrossed with the mentors and didn't really focus on the Melinda Doolittles of the show.''
Image credit: Kelsey McNeal
NIGEL LYTHGOE ''We were so engrossed with the mentors and didn't really focus on the Melinda Doolittles of the show.''

At Sunday's TCA press tour panel for Fox's summer hit So You Think You Can Dance, a lively discussion about what makes certain finalists on the dancing show stand out from the rest turned into a much more interesting back-and-forth about what Dance can teach its bigger — and much more powerful, in terms of ratings — older brother, American Idol. Nigel Lythgoe, the executive producer of both shows who also serves as a sharp-tongued judge on Dance, said there's plenty — and that we should all expect some changes on Idol next season. ''We realized we made mistakes on Idol last season,'' he said. ''We were so engrossed with the mentors and didn't really focus on the Melinda Doolittles of the show. We didn't know them as much as the Kellie Picklers of last season.''

Lythgoe is referring to the marked difference in the ways the two programs showcase their contestants: In recent seasons, Idol has tended to shun details about its singers to instead focus on the big-name stars who come to the show to perform and work with the contestants, especially in later episodes. Dance, however, spends quite a bit of its airtime featuring the back-stories of its dancers and their struggles to get on the show.

''We're all attached to them a little more,'' Lythgoe said about Dance's focus on its contestants' lives. ''I think that's affected us all a little bit more. There are little emotional hooks that come out.'' As for an Idol tune-up plan for season 7, Lythgoe revealed the production team is always looking to ''tinker with the program,'' adding that ultimately he'd like to see the Idol contestants be as strong as his prized top 10 on So You Think You Can Dance.

And what of Sanjaya? Of course, the faux-hawked menace snuck his way into the discussion. Speaking about the top 10 dancers seated behind him on stage, Lythgoe said: ''There isn't a Sanjaya here, although I do think Sanjaya helped the last season of Idol. I think there's enough talent with enough great stories to warrant the fact that we are basing it on their talent. No one needs to alter their hair on this program.''


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Originally posted Jul 22, 2007