Nigel Lythgoe’s angry response to Fox president’s Idol criticism

Nigel Lythgoe may executive produce the most-popular TV series–not just reality TV series–in the country, but American Idol‘s ratings dip combined with lack of enthusiasm from the season led to criticism, including from his boss at Fox, and now he’s fighting back.

Specifically, he responds to comments earlier this month from Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly, who told reporters that American Idol needed “some creative tweaking” after ratings “dropped more than anticipated.”

In a rather fascinating interview with TV Line, in which he frequently challenges the assumptions in complimentary and/or ass-kissing questions, Nigel says nice things about The Voice, saying, “There’s nothing you can do about” having a similar winner each season, and admitted, amazingly, that during the audition rounds, “We only do gimmicky contestants when we haven’t got the talent, in truth.”

As to Reilly’s comments, though, Nigel first points directly at that disaster X Factor that Fox decided to air as part of the reason why American Idol suffered this year: “that’s like two American Idols back-to-back. So, yes, I’m shocked that they thought that the ratings wouldn’t dip. Plus, The Voice is in the mix now, too.”

But it’s when he’s asked about the “creative tweaking” that Nigel gets the most entertaining, starting off by mocking Reilly’s suggestion and ending up “annoyed”:

“So, when Kevin says we’ve got to do new things next year, what are the changes? The format is a very simple format. Kids audition for us. Their talent is what brings people in to watch the show. Do we change the format? Maybe we should do it under water while basket weaving? It surprises me that there’s some kind of challenge to the producers to make it more exciting. What do they think we do? Sit on our asses not worrying about the show? I know, let’s watch the ratings dip down, that will be fun, won’t it? I get very annoyed with people, especially executives that should know what they’re talking about, making statements like that, to be frank with you.”

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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.