American Idol producer admits he’s “cruel,” a “puppet master,” and has “messed around with the kids”

Nigel Lythgoe, American Idol‘s executive producer, is especially candid, but in a recent call with reporters, he was particularly honest about the way his show uses its contestants for drama.

Discussing the deceptive and cruel fake elimination during Idol Gives Back last season, he said, according to Reality TV World’s transcript of his discussion, that eliminating someone was not an option, because “of the very nature of what we were doing … I refused to cut anybody that night. I can’t ask America to send money in, look at these poor people, ‘Oh and by the way, Jordin Sparks, you’re cut tonight. Bye-bye, darling.’ It would have been horrible.”

He added, “if you know me after seven years, you know I’m not just going to say at the beginning of the show, ‘We’re not going to cut anybody.’ I’ve got to play. I’ve got to be cruel. That’s the puppet master in me, if you will. Yes, we messed around with the kids. Bless them.”

As to American Idol 7, he says this season will focus more on the contestants, and also more or less confirmed that the top 50 finalists cast list on the Internet is true. At the same time, he admitted that some members of the media are willing to do their part to help promote television’s number one show by not reporting on that information. Watchdogs, indeed.

“There’s nothing we can do about it, I don’t think. … Normally the press are great. They’re embargoed and they know well enough to adhere to that. But it’s going to happen… It’s just endless, and thank goodness at this moment in time it’s a very, very minute part of the market,” Lythgoe said.

‘American Idol’ producer talks about seventh-season format changes [Reality TV World]

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.