American Idol continues to assemble its team for the upcoming 13th season as part of a major overhaul. Unscripted/event producing team Jesse Ignjatovic and Evan Prager, who go by Den Of Thieves, are joining Idol as executive producers, joining fellow new exec producer Per Blankens. Under Fox’s agreement with FremantleMedia North America and 19 Entertainment, each of the two producing companies appoints an executive producer who oversee the series in tandem. Their most recent choices were longtime EPs Nigel Lythgoe (19 Entertainment) and Ken Warwick (FMNA), who both recently exited the show. Blankens, brought in by FMNA, comes from the Swedish version of Idol, which he executive produced for five seasons. Meanwhile, Ignjatovic and Prager, appointed by 19 Entertainment, bring extensive experience in producing live events having done the MTV Video Music Awards, MTV Movie Awards, CMT Awards, Critics’ Choice Movie Awards and VH1 Divas. “To take an iconic show like American Idol to the next level, we wanted executive producers who really had a deep affection and respect for American pop culture,” said Marc Graboff, president of 19 Entertainment parent CORE Media. “Jesse and Evan have an enormous amount of expertise in this arena and can do some very special things.” READ MORE »
EXCLUSIVE: FremantleMedia North America COO Donna Redier Linsk has opted not to renew her contract. Redier Linsk will exit the company in July and segue into a new role as a consultant at FMNA’s Fox series American Idol until December. Chief Operating Officer was a new position established by FMNA in 2009 when Redier Linsk was brought in by then-CEO Cecile Frot-Coutaz from Fox Broadcasting, where she had been SVP Business Affairs and Alternative Production for five years. At FMNA, Redier Linsk oversaw production, finance, business and legal affairs for all of the company’s entertainment programming and was actively involved in day-to-day production of American Idol, The X Factor and America’s Got Talent. FMNA is expected to name a replacement. “I want to thank Donna for the contribution she made to our business over the last four years,” said Frot-Coutaz, now CEO of parent company FremantleMedia. “She brought us her relentless rigor, business acumen, passion for production and incredible dedication. I will miss her dearly.” Added FMNA CEO Thom Beers, “Donna is an amazing talent.”
Andy Patrick is an AwardsLine contributor.
Considering that upstart docureality series like Duck Dynasty and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo are dominating ratings and pop culture, reality-competition series have largely been overshadowed. NBC’s buzzy singing contest The Voice last year injected some fresh blood into the Emmy reality-competition field, which had mostly been filled by the same shows for the past decade. In fact, CBS’ The Amazing Race has snagged the Emmy every year but one since the category’s inception in 2003. However, The Voice is coming in strong in ratings and challenging Amazing Race’s hold on the title. So while you contemplate whether the reality-competition category is primed for a shakeup this year, here’s our assessment of the competitors.
Fox Taps Executive Producer Of Swedish ‘Idol’ As New ‘American Idol’ EP; Nigel Lythgoe Says “It Has Been A Great Ride”
UPDATE, 10:55 AM: Nigel Lythgoe just released a statement following Fox’s naming of Per Blankens as his replacement as American Idol‘s new executive producer. In it, Lythgoe called his tenure on Idol “one of the highlights of my entire career” and a “a great ride,” adding that “if the executives that are now in charge of American Idol believe that the ratings will improve with my departure, I have no complaints.” Read full statement below the Per Blankens announcement.
PREVIOUS: Fox is moving quickly on setting the pieces for an expected overhaul on American Idol following a season that hit all-time lows. After David Hill was put in charge of the show Wednesday, the network officially dismissed longtime executive producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick over the weekend. And this morning, it set Per Blankens as new executive producer for the upcoming 13th season. Blankens comes from Sweden, where he most recently executive produced the local version of Idol. “Per is a creative and experienced executive who has been the showrunner on the blockbuster Swedish Idol for more than 5 seasons,” said Trish Kinane, American Idol executive producer for FremantleMedia North America. “He is extremely passionate about Idol and I’m very excited about his ideas and vision for keeping Idol creatively vibrant.”
Veteran News Corp. TV executive David Hill is stepping in to oversee Fox’s flagship reality series American Idol and The X Factor. Hill, who serves as Senior EVP of News Corp. after a long tenure as chairman and CEO of Fox Sports, is not a replacement for Fox’s departing alternative programming president Mike Darnell but will take over his duties on Idol and X Factor. Following Darnell’s recent announcement that he was stepping down, there has been a decision-making vacuum on the two shows, with Idol in particular in dire need of someone to oversee its upcoming overhaul following record-low ratings.
Three of the four judges — Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Randy Jackson — already announced they are not coming back. Executive producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warrick also are not expected to continue, but even that decision has not been formalized, along with the recruitment of new judges, with negotiations with Idol alumna Jennifer Hudson stalled. Hill’s coming on board is expected to help get things moving. It also will shift the way the two shows are run toward a more traditional network/producer relationship, with Hill serving as the network’s point person for the producers.
The Mariah Carey-Nicki Minaj American Idol rivalry carried over to the divas’ departure from the show, with Minaj stepping on Carey’s toes and announcing her own departure on Twitter shortly after Carey had done the same, also on Twitter. “Thank you American Idol for a life changing experience!,” Minaj wrote. “Wouldn’t trade it for the world! Time to focus on the Music!!! Mmmuuuaahhh!!!”
Minaj joins fellow judges Carey and Randy Jackson on the list of Idol departures as the veteran series wrapped its lowest-rated season. We’ve yet to hear from judge Keith Urban and executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, both of whom are rumored to also depart. Fox and Idol producers seem to have already moved on, with Jennifer Hudson in talks for a spot on the judging panel next season, possibly alongside other well-known Idol alums.
EXCLUSIVE: The reality TV landscape will never be the same. After 18 years at Fox, the dean of unscripted TV executives, Fox’s President of Alternative Programming Mike Darnell, is stepping down. He will stay on through the end of June, when his current contract is up, and help with the transition. Darnell was offered a new long-term deal at the network but, after long deliberation, decided it was time to move on. Darnell faced similar agonizing soul-searching several years ago when he was offered rich producing deals elsewhere but ultimately opted to stay at Fox, where he’s had free rein on the unscripted side. This time around, he decided to leave the network, which he helped build first with noise-making reality specials like World’s Scariest Police Chases and When Animals Attack! and then with such tentpole series as American Idol and Family Guy. The colorful, unconventional, cowboy hat-wearing Darnell never shied away from controversy, relishing in the blockbuster attention projects like the Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? special and hit series Joe Millionaire brought on. In a testament to Darnell’s importance to Fox and parent News Corp, company chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch weighed in on his departure. “Mike took risks at a critical time and was a pioneering force in shaping the reality programming genre that exists today,” Murdoch said. “He’s a smart and fearless executive who will be missed.”
Darnell is expected to take some time off before making his next move, which I hear likely will be in the producing/entrepreneurial arena. “I’m extremely grateful that Fox has offered me a new long-term contract (and anyone who knows me won’t believe I’m saying this), but I’ve decided it’s time for a change,” Darnell said. “With my current deal ending in June, and having been here for 18 years (kind of a record in Hollywood), I had to make a decision: either stay (and basically admit to myself I was going to retire at Fox … not a terrible choice) or leave and try something new. I’ve been in ‘Reality’ since before it was even called that, and it has truly been an amazing ride. However, the world has changed drastically over the last few years, and now with hundreds of channels and limitless ways to watch television, I’ve decided this was the perfect time to take advantage of the rapidly changing marketplace. To say I am going to miss everyone here and that the people at Fox are like a family to me would be the understatement of the decade. I have so many people to thank (and I will call all of you!), but first and foremost, I want to thank Kevin Reilly, Peter Rice, Chase Carey and Rupert Murdoch for all their amazing support over these many years,” the exec said in a statement Friday.
Related: Anyone Care Who Won ‘American Idol’?
Fox is expected to begin the search for Darnell’s successor, who will navigate veteran American Idol and The X Factor through their upcoming overhauls, soon as Idol is looking to rebound from all-time low ratings. “Mike has been a trailblazer for the entire industry and has made innumerable contributions to the growth and success of the network over the past two decades,” said Rice, Chairman of Fox Networks Group. “His passion for – and dedication to – television knows no bounds. He is like a member of the family, and Fox won’t be the same without him. While we wish he would’ve stayed forever, we regretfully accept his decision.”
Obviously the winner of American Idol‘s 12th season was going to be a woman since this is the first time in many seasons that the two finalists are female. Other than that, I don’t give a shit who takes the prize because, seriously, are these victors (who always sound like cats being strangled) ever heard from again? Not really, except maybe Kelly Clarkson or even Carrie Underwood. This season was memorable only because of the bickering between Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey, and the lousy ratings down about 25% compared to last season. That said, do not read further if you want to be surprised… SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!
The new 12-episode 24 event series, titled 24: Live Another Day, will likely launch in early May 2014 running into the summer, Fox‘s entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly said during an upfront conference call this morning. The original idea to continue 24 was as a feature, which died after 24 showrunner Howard Gordon and his team concluded that ”24 being compressed into two hours is not 24,” Reilly said. But after Fox announced its event series push six months ago, Gordon sparked to the idea of resurrecting 24 that way. The 12-hour version will keep the real-time nature of the original series, skipping some hours in the 24-hour period it covers. That would actually benefit the show, Reilly said, noting that 24 producers always felt that the spine of each season of 24 were 12 episodes containing major events, with the other 12 providing connective tissue. “Now we’ll get the best part,” Reilly said. While Fox envisions its limited series as stand-alone, one-time events, some, including 24, could become franchises with multiple installments though it is unlikely to have a new 24 every year.
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UPDATE, 5:25 PM: Ryan Seacrest tonight opened American Idol with an acknowledgment of Randy Jackson’s announcement today that he was leaving the show after 12 seasons. The host told viewers on Thursday’s live results show that there …