Idol producer: “Nobody said this is an amateur competition”

American Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe got defensive and testy with reporters Friday over the issue of experienced ringers, and in the process insisted that the show is neither for amateurs nor Americans. He also said there will be only four celebrity mentors this entire season and, for the first time, themes and forced song selection during the semi-finals, starting with the ’60s on Tuesday.

Lythgoe got defensive about Carly Smithson, and incorrectly insisted (read: lied) about whether or not the show has addressed her previous recording contract. “We’re doing everything about who they are and what they are. … We’re not ignoring anything — we never do. … We have never not shown their past when we can. There is nothing wrong with saying she had a deal and she didn’t get anywhere in that deal and now here she is,” he said, according to Reality TV World. “I don’t honestly know what the angle is, because all we’re saying is this girl is extremely talented. It’s within the rules of the competition. What’s wrong with it. She’s not broken any rules.”

He noted that those rules would permit someone like Elvis to compete, repeating that professional experience does not matter. “The rules of the competition state it’s if you do not have a contract now. Goodness me, if Elvis Presley came back and was out of contract — and was able to participate through [Idol’s] age [restrictions] — then he would be in the competition. Nobody said this is an amateur competition. This is something that people are making up for themselves.”

Those people making that up include his own host, Ryan Seacrest, and whoever writes Seacrest’s lines. He opened the Charleston audition episode by asking if there would be “fresh, untapped talent” there, and professional singers who’ve had millions of dollars spent on producing and marketing their previous records aren’t exactly fresh or untapped.

Anyway, Lythgoe implied that these discussions are limited to web-surfing trolls who don’t actually have an impact on the competition. “It’s an online backlash. We talk about getting between 35 and 65 million calls [for viewer votes]. I really don’t think online — even when you have complete online focus like Vote For the Worst — has an affect on the show. There are too many people who vote. They’re going to have to decide, ‘Is she good enough to be on the show?’ It’s not what’s happened in her past. She’s not breaking any rules of the competition. I don’t see the logic. I don’t see any logic in there,” he said.

Speaking of Smithson, she is not an American citizen, nor is Michael Johns. But Lythgoe said that American Idol doesn’t have to be won by an American. “We’ve never said you had to be an American citizen. You just have to be legal. And most of this country came from somewhere else, so I don’t see where the backlash is,” he said, accordign to Access Atlanta.

As to the new changes, Lythgoe said semi-finalists will be forced to choose one of 50 songs that meet the theme in order to ensure that viewers know the song, and to get clearance faster. It will also ensure that there isn’t as much of the same “song choice” problem as last year. “Asking America to vote on a performer they don’t know with the possibility of a song they don’t know we felt was not right, and there were some strange songs,” he said, according to The Buffalo News’ account.

‘American Idol’ producer: Carly Smithson controversy not logical [Reality TV World]
Nigel Lythgoe says 60s theme next wk, defends Carly Smithson [Access Atlanta]
‘Idol’ producer defends Top 24 [Buffalo News]