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CBS Orders Nigel Lythgoe-Produced Game Show Pilot

By | Thursday March 31, 2011 @ 6:55pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

It’s like Deal or No Deal with envelopes instead of briefcases: CBS has ordered game show pilot Secret Fortune, which will be executive produced by American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance guru Nigel Lythgoe.

Based on a Wild River Prods. format, Secret Fortune will have contestants choosing from 24 sealed envelopes, each of them containing a check for amounts that varies widely from a buck to a fortune. Eventually, 23 of the envelopes will be destroyed, with the contestant left with the check in the remaining one. Lythgoe is exec producing with Wild Rover’s Phil Morrow.

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Simon Fuller On ‘American Idol’ Season 10 So Far: ‘We Wanted To Lose The Negativity’

Nellie Andreeva

When a show heads into its 10th season, you brace for ratings declines. When it heads into its 10th season and loses its biggest star, you brace for the worst. Well, by that measure, Fox’s American Idol has done pretty well. After the public spectacle that the search for new judges became, playing out like a soap opera over the summer, there was a lot of skepticism whether the veteran reality show would collapse following the departure of star judge Simon Cowell. Airing in a new Wednesday-Thursday pattern, Idol did start off down from last season but has since held steady and pretty close to last year’s numbers except for last week which a year ago featured Ellen DeGeneres’ debut as an Idol judge. But it’s still unclear how the 2011 Idol‘s extreme makeover for Season 10 will fare with two new judges (Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler), a new showrunner (returning Nigel Lythgoe), new lower age limit (15), new record company (Universal) and new mentor (Jimmy Iovine, who showed similiarities to grumpy Cowell in his debut on the show tonight). And the changes aren’t done. Word is Idol has inked a deal with Facebook to move its rather antiquated phone voting system to the Web and is also planning to actively use Twitter. In a written Q&A with me, Idol creator/executive producer Simon Fuller declined to discuss any Idol voting … Read More »

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TCA: No Villain On ‘Idol’ This Season

From Ray Richmond, who has been contributing to Deadline Hollywood’s TCA coverage:
The hot new (read: Simon Cowell-less) American Idol got rolled out by Fox on Tuesday morning at the TCA confab in Pasadena, with new judges J-Lo and Steven Tyler and new/old showrunner Nigel Lythgoe but without a man named Simon, the one named Cowell, arguably the nasty voice that has long stirred this top-rated drink for a phenomenon that enters its 10th season on Jan. 19.

First question of the day: Does anyone take it personally that everyone presumes there is a Hummer-size hole in the show to fill due to the looming absence of Simon’s bracing venom? “No,” insisted Randy Jackson, the only returning judge and now the undeniable veteran. “We don’t take it personally. Of course we love him and miss him, but what we’ve added with these new superstars is a lot. We’ve got a rock legend in Steven and a triple-threat in J-Lo.” This marked the first time in a public forum that someone has expressed “love” for Cowell.

For his part, exec producer Lythgoe expressed little concern over “Idol” continuing on its merry Number One way. “It’s an entirely new cast, and an entirely new show, but you need to evolve after you’ve been on the air for a decade, so it’s time,” Lythgoe said. “Simon’s leaving allows us to be creative and to shake things up.” Agreed exec producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz: “It was important … Read More »

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‘Idol’ Still Trying To Get Elton John As Judge

Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s Emmy coverage.

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. Read More »

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Ellen DeGeneres Reunites With Fox, ‘American Idol’ Producer For One Night

By | Thursday August 12, 2010 @ 11:25am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Demonstrating that there are no hard feelings, exiting American Idol judge Ellen DeGeneres is returning to Fox for an appearance on tonight’s season finale of the network’s reality series So You Think You Can Dance, which hails from Idol creator/executive producer Simon Fuller, returning Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe as well as Fuller’s 19 Entertainment. DeGeneres, who was in the middle of a two-year deal as Idol judge, asked to be released in June and her wish was eventually granted last month. On SYTYCD, DeGeneres will perform with tWitch Boss.

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Nigel Lythgoe Inks Deal To Return To ‘Idol’

Nellie Andreeva

It looks like Fox will be able to confirm shortly at least one new member of the American Idol team for next season, returning executive producer Nigel Lythgoe whose deal has been completed and is expected to be announced tomorrow. At Fox’s TCA presentation on Monday, the network’s entertainment chairman Peter Rice stated that ”the only thing I an tell you with absolute certainty is there are no signed deals with anyone on either side of the camera who wasn’t on the show last year,” referring to judges as well as Lythgoe.  Read More »

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TCA: Fox Addresses ‘American Idol’ Rumors & More From The Network’s Exec Session

Nellie Andreeva

Anticipating an avalanche of American Idol-related questions, Fox Broadcasting’s entertainment chairman Peter Rice made an opening statement at the top of the network’s executive session. “The only thing I an tell you with absolute certainty is there are no signed deals with anyone on either side of the camera who wasn’t on the show last year,” he said, referring to judges as well as returning executive producer Nigel Lythgoe. Rice did confirm that Ellen DeGeneres met with him at the beginning of June. ”We talked about the season and her feelings about the season, the idea that she wasn’t comfortable and that it was not a good fit for her,” he said. “I tried to persuade her that it would be different in the future, but we ultimately came to an agreement. We were going to begin looking for new judges anyway, because Simon was leaving, so as that was going to play out over the summer, we came to an agreement to go to her and say: we can’t replace you, or we can move on without you.  [DeGeneres is in the middle of a 2-year deal with Idol.] That’s where we got to last week. We felt confident that we could come up with a panel that didn’t include Ellen as a judge, and  at the same time we knew we were coming here on Monday. We felt it was disingenuous to sit here and talk about Ellen being … Read More »

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JENNIFER LOPEZ IS NEW ‘IDOL’ JUDGE! Closed Deal This Week; Replaces Ellen Who Wanted Out of Contract: “It’s Not Been Fun”

EXCLUSIVE UPDATE 6:30 PM: We’ve just learned the backstory of how Ellen DeGeneres bowed out of American Idol and who will be the new judge taking her place. It’s Jennifer Lopez, JENNIFER LOPEZ 2whose singing and acting career has been on the skids after her recent movie failed at the box office in the spring and she was dropped by her record company Sony Music Epic Records this past winter. We hear her manager Benny Medina (whom she once fired) orchestrated the meeting with the American Idol producers a month ago, and negotiations have been ongoing ever since. We’ve learned a deal was closed earlier this week under the utmost secrecy. Today’s news came shortly after Nigel Lythgoe returned to Idol as an executive producer. He has vowed to shake up the show’s team of judges in the wake of the departure of Simon Cowell, publicly stating that he always thought a panel of three and not 4 made the most sense.

Still to be decided is who will replace Simon Cowell. Everyone associated with the show wants Elton John, but we hear he’s asking for too much money and has too many touring commitments he can’t get out of. (Denials That Justin Or Elton Judging ‘Idol’) 2ND UPDATE: Tonight, unconfirmed reports say Idol has offered Cowell’s judge seat to Steven Tyler. 3RD UPDATE: And another unconfirmed report claimed judge Kara DioGuardi has been fired to bring the panel count down to just 3, not 4.

As for Ellen Degeneres, we’re told she wanted off the show two months ago and complained that Idol producers “couldn’t control Cowell”, one insider tells us. Least of all Cecile Frot-Coutaz, the CEO of FremantleMedia North America. “Cecile is doing X Factor with Simon, so she’s in his back pocket.” DeGeneres and her reps went in to to see Fox Broadcasting’s Entertainment Chairman Peter Rice and Alternative TV President Mike Darnell and asked to be let out of the year left on her contract. “She’s not comfortable. She’s not happy. It’s not been fun,” Fox was told.  But Rice and Darnell responded that, with Cowell leaving, “We can’t let you out now because it would be bad for our franchise. Give us a chance to figure out who we could get.” In the end, all the show’s producers – Fox, Fremantle, and 19 Entertainment – worked it out. “Peter Rice was awesome,” an insider tells us. “Ellen is thrilled and relieved.” We’ve learned that serious conversations took place between Idol and Jessica Simpson to replace Ellen. But once Jennifer Lopez was locked in this week, the DeGeneres announcement went out. Read More »

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Nigel Lythgoe Returns to ‘Idol’ As EP

Nellie Andreeva

He was the first major member of the American idol team to depart the show. Now former executive producer Nigel Lythgoe is finalizing a deal to return for the upcoming 10th season as the top-rated reality series is looking to shake off a lackluster Season 9 and to prepare for its first season without Simon Cowell on the judging panel. Lythgoe is expected to serve as an executive producer alongside Ken Warwick, who has been running Idol for the past 2 years, creator Simon Fuller and Cecile Frot-Coutaz. Lythgoe’s surprise exit from the show in the summer of 2008 was followed by the departure of Paula Abdul last summer over a salary dispute and the recent exit of Cowell, who will be launching X Factor on Fox in fall 2011.

Lythgoe, who helped build Idol into a reality powerhouse, has stayed in the Idol family with a deal at 19 Entertainment, which co-produces Idol with FremantleMedia. He also serves as executive producer/judge on 19′s Fox series So You Think You Can Dance. Because of his long-time Idol experience and his Cowell-like role on SYTYCD as an acerbic British judge, there has been some speculation that CAA-repped Lythgoe would be considered for Cowell’s spot but I hear his deal is for his EP services only. As for the high-profile search for Cowell’s replacement, it is still going on, and the network may not be able to lock in the new judge by … Read More »

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