Fox just issued a statement confirming that Kara DioGuardi won’t be returning to American Idol next season. News comes as Jennifer Lopez is finalizing a deal to join the Fox series and amid speculation that Idol might be reverting to the original three-judge format. Also closing in on a deal for the reality series is Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler. And executive producer Nigel Lythgoe said last weekend he’s still trying to land Elton John. So Randy Jackson will be the only returning panelist after Simon Cowell, Ellen DeGeneres, and now DioGuardi have gone.
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EXCLUSIVE: Is American Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe unhappy with who’s going to be the show’s next two judges? It sure sounds that way. I caught up with him at the 8th annual BAFTA/LA Tea Party in Century City today and asked him to confirm that Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez will replace Simon Cowell and Ellen DeGeneres. “I must say, I really do love Elton John. He’s a huge favorite of mine,” Lythgoe replied to me. The producer added that Elton’s packed schedule is “always the problem”. Then Lythgoe revealed what strategy Idol is using on Elton to convince him to clear it and come on the show. “It depends on whether [he] wants to give back.” As Deadline Hollywood has been continually reporting, everybody connected to Idol has made no secret of the fact that Elton John has always been their first choice to replace Cowell. But no deal is in the offing not just because of the musician’s touring commitments but also because of his astronomical asking price. Which is why the musician’s UK publicist Gary Farrow told Deadline London Editor Tim Adler in late July that “There’s more chance of me fucking you than Elton being on U.S. Idol.” But it’s clear Lythgoe is still trying.
Lythgoe, who left Idol and then recently returned, also blamed Simon Cowell for Ellen DeGeneres not returning as an Idol judge next season. “I’m sorry she’s gone, to be honest with you,” he told me, “because I think there’s a place for Ellen DeGeneres on American Idol. And that is being the voice of the people. She wasn’t given a fair opportunity to serve that function.
2ND UPDATE: Deadline has learned that representatives for both Justin Timberlake and Elton John are denying there’s anything real behind that published rumor that both musicians are in talks to replace Simon Cowell as a permanent judge on American Idol. A Justin insider says the report is “just silly” because Timberlake has no time for a gig like this. That’s because his film career is really taking off after acting turns in David Fincher’s Oscar-touted The Social Network as well as Bad Teacher and Friends with Benefits. And he’s been offered the lead in the Andrew Niccols-directed I’m Mortal for New Regency and Fox. Elton John’s name surfaced the moment Cowell announced his exit and there have been talks since then. Plus, he’s got the album “Union” with Leon Russell. The singer’s UK publicist Gary Farrow told me that “Elton’s got commitments right up until next year. As we stand at the moment, Elton has no plans to do that show.” Which is why he gave Deadline London editor Tim Adler this blunt quote: “It’s absolute rubbish. This story’s three months old. There’s more chance of me fucking you than Elton being on U.S. Idol.”