'American Idol' exclusive: Exec. producers say no music videos, a single Top 20 semi-final round, and the end of gender parity

idol-2011Image Credit: Michael Becker/FoxFrom the new judges to the new set, the new bandleader to the music itself, American Idol is getting some serious work done for its tenth season. “We’re going ahead with a whole fresh change,” Idol exec producer Ken Warwick says to EW exclusively, “simply because we never thought in our wildest dreams that any show would last ten years on American television.”

Contrary to recent web reports, however, the show will definitely not be introducing a new music video challenge. The idea had been floated as a possibility at one point, but exec producer Cécile Frot-Coutaz tells EW that while contestants are already experiencing new challenges this season, “We’re certainly not going to do the music videos.” And exec. producer Nigel Lythgoe laughs off the idea that a country singer won’t be asked to do an R&B song. “If you do Motown, then I’m not sure [how] you’re going to sing an R&B song and give it your country flavor,” he tells EW. “You can’t suddenly go [in a painful country twang] ‘Staaaaap! In the naaeeemeee of loooaahve’ — so it’s not going to be like that. They’ve got to be clever with it.”

A source close to the show also tells EW that contestants will be limited to cover songs when singing for votes, and it is unlikely that voting will move online this season. And the source is quite firm that there was never a plan to bring Idol all stars back on the show in anything other than a performance capacity.

So what big changes are afoot this season on Idol

One sudden death Top 20 round. Instead of a three-week top 24 round in which America votes, 60 contestants were flown to Las Vegas to sing Beatles songs on the same stage at the Las Vegas Mirage that Cirque du Soleil performs LOVE. “I think a few [contestants] knew ‘Hello Goodbye’ because it was used on a Target commercial,” chuckles Lythgoe, “which is frightening.” But that round only knocked the talent pool down to 40 wannabes. Yet another round in Hollywood will narrow the contestants down to 20 singers, and only then will America vote in a single sudden death round that will select the Idol finalists from among two groups of ten.

A Top 12…or a top 10. While some reports speculate the final group could be as high as 15 contestants, the Idol producers tell EW the finalists will either be a top 12 or a top 10. “It’s one of those situations where we’ll see what the talent’s like,” says Warwick. “We’ll see what cross-section of kids we end up with in that final elimination round. It will be up to the talent that’s there as to whether we go with 10 or 12.”

No gender parity. Say goodbye to Idol‘s often rigid practice of maintaining the same number of female and male contestants in their final group. Explains Warwick: “If I’ve got six fantastic boys and four average girls, I’m certainly not going to throw out a fantastic boy to put in another average girl, or vice versa.”

For more on all the changes in Idol Land — and EW’s exclusive roundtable interview with host Ryan Seacrest and judges Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, and Steven Tyler — check out this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands this Thursday and Friday.

Comments (211 total) Add your comment
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  • dreamr

    Target commercial? It was also on “Glee”, so I’m sure a few people knew it from there, too, Nigel. XD

    I’m excited to see the changes, to be honest. I’m glad that they’re doing away with the boy/girl division for good.

    • ELle

      “simply because we never thought in our wildest dreams that any show would last ten years on American television.”

      Huh? CSI, LAW and Order,The Real World, Friends…

      • Bill L.

        Gunsmoke… Mash…

      • CJones


        Stargate SG1

      • CJones


      • dntbstpd1

        Um, am i the only one seeing the obvious? The Simpsons going on their 21st season…?

      • JFWilder


      • Jason

        His comment makes sense if you aren’t out to write him off because he’s not an American:
        Cop Rock, Alf, Joey, My Secret Identity, Sons of Tucson, Still Standing, Commander in Chief, Viva Laughlin, The Ropers, The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage, Homeboys from Outer Space, Cavemen, Pop Stars, Nashville Star, World Idol, Remote Control, Are You Hot, Married by America, The Swan, Encore Encore, Happy Hour, According To Jim- just to name a few.

        I wonder why he thinks American TV shows tends to come and go.

      • Marie

        Needles to say, Nigel was exaggerating. But the shows listed are exceptions and not the norm.

      • Hellooooo…


    • eddie

      I hope the Glee comment was a joke ;)

    • TorontoTom


      • Annie

        Where is he?

      • Heidi

        why did he leave and where can we find him? I miss him too!

      • Molly

        He’s on Ausiello’s new site.

      • silverrose

        anybody have that link?

      • Tash


      • Ellie


      • Margie

        Ausiello’s ;site isn’t up yet.

      • I don’t

        Well you know what…I’D RATHER HAVE ADAM WRITE!!! So there!!!

      • lokonga emmanuel

        every body luv it.

    • Gordo

      It’s X Factor time!

      • Kimmie

        Yes!! Bring on X Factor!! Idol is dead without Simon.

  • AN

    Still not watching. In the words of Willow, Bored Now.

    • Chris

      If you’re commenting and reading this article, you will more than likely watch at least one episode.

      • Mark

        Hey that’s a good one.

      • AN

        No, I read the article because I wanted to see what was changing. Guess what? The changes aren’t that interesting. I assure you, I’m not going to watch. I’d rather watch reruns of Buffy than ANYTHING with Jennifer Lopez.

      • Wes

        I watched Season 5. Taylor Hicks won. I’ve never gone back……and good call about Buffy.

      • KarlHall

        Hey why u hatin on Buffy?? Joss Whedon’s a genius! It’s great compared to this trash…

      • Wes

        I actually love Buffy! Sorry for the confusion.

    • Chris

      I love Evil Willow.

      • Aly

        I love vamp Willow. Evil Willow was monotonous and unconvincing.

      • Tye-Grr

        I love all sides of Willow. <3

      • Laura

        I love any incarnation of Willow, but Evil Willow was especially awesome. Doppelganger Vampyr was great and so was ‘regular’ Willow.

      • redialsend

        Kinda got tired of Long Days Journey into Willow Night. I liked fun, quirky, geek-nerdy Willow.

      • Jess

        I loved Vamp Willow too! I really liked evil Willow too (but not as much as I loved not really evil but kind of dark and scruffy Wesley)

    • tma6469

      lol…wasn’t that right before she skinned that dude that shot Tara

      • JLC7930

        She didn’t shoot Tara! She loved Tara! Tara’s death is what sent her down the evil road.

    • Turanga Leela

      I’ve been bored with this show for years. The voting has been the major problem for years, but the producers won’t fix it because they think that controversy is always good.

      • Kiki

        ITA. As long as they maintain unlimited voting, they will continue to crown winners of a popularity contest, NOT the best singer.

        Their refusal to fix the voting makes a mockery of the rest of their changes.

    • Brad

      Not that I mind…but all of the above comments are about Alyson Hannigan’s character(s) on Buffy and have absolutely nothing to do with Idol (the subject of this post.) Haha

    • starina

      Buffy reference FTW!

    • jake

      Someone has their facts wrong. Time will tell whom. The Hollywood Reporter and EW have different “facts” about the new season of AI – and the articles have contradictory information about what will happen. Check out Halperins Idol Blog on HollywoodReporter.com. We’ll see whos right in another month

    • Liv

      If it were in the true words of Willow you would have then skinned a man. Haha! I love that you can still see Buffy references years after the show ended.

    • Jason

      couldn’t you have just quoted yourself saying that? Those words aren’t bound to the character. Don’t be the “speaks in TV quotes” kid. Now, kiss my grits!

    • AN

      No Buffy hate at all! I am a HUGE Buffy fan! :) I was meaning that I’d rather watch something I’ve watched a 1000 times than AI.

    • Hali

      I’m just getting into that show now on Netflix… loooved that :D.

  • Nick

    Good idea about the gender parity. I really hate the way they’ve been doing it recently, forcing an even amount of boys and girls even if some of those people don’t deserve to be there.

    • claudenorth

      I agree completely. The top 10 or 12 should be the best of the contestants regardless of gender, even if that means an all-male or all-female line-up of contestants.

    • Noelbelle

      I agree. Last year it was especially silly during the top 24 week when the audience saw how much better the women performed than the men.

    • Randy Jackson Random Comment Generator

      Canadian Idol went with that 3 years ago. The last 5 were all male.

    • Allobidallo

      The top 10 or 12 will be mostly guys then. Teenage girls do 80 percent of the voting now.

      • Mindy

        “So You Think You Can Dance” did away with gender parity last season. Yeah, most of the girls were eliminated early. But, a girl ended up winning the show. And the boys actually were better than the girls.

    • Fatima

      It actually seems like a bad move to me considering the only people still voting for Idol are teenage girls and single middle-aged women. Not trying to be mean, but that’s where the super fans have proven to be for seasons. With them in control (and look what’s happened in the last 3 years) we’re going to be stuck with another blase guy winner. A female NEEDS to win this season for the show to survive.

      • Kelsey

        Maybe you shouldn’t stereotype teenage girls. I’m one and I don’t vote for the hot guys. I look past that and actually care for the voices of the singers. Pretty amazing for a 16 year old, huh? Not all teenage girls are immature dimwits like some are who only vote for the pretty boys.

        Think about it really. It doesn’t matter who wins, male or female. It depends on the talent. Was Alison Iraheta better then Adam Lambert? No. Was Crystal Bowersox better then Lee Dewyze? No, not in my opinion. Was Syesha Mercado better then David Cook? Not really, no. It doesn’t matter if it’s a male or female who wins, it matters IF THEY ARE ACTUALLY BETTER THEN THE OTHERS!

      • Fatima

        Uh, you’re overly emotional like a teenage girl at least. Geez, I’m aware that not every teenage girl is like that, but you have people like Justin Bieber out there proving that there is strength in deranged teenage girls.
        By the way, Alison was much better than Lambert. Much better.

      • shaye

        I thought Kelsey’s reply was controlled. You, Fatima, seem overly emotional.

      • Don

        Um, dont forget about the gay voters. Trust me, there is alot of them.

      • Karen

        ah Kelsey…..”Was Crystal Bowersox better then Lee Dewyze?” Yes yes yes yes and YES

      • dntbstpd1

        @Don “Um, dont forget about the gay voters. Trust me, there ARE alot of them.”
        FTFY although i’m not sure where you are going with the gay voters thing. Just b/c we are gay we vote for guys? Seriously? You are that ignorant?

      • Marcus

        Don, I don’t know about you, but most of my (gay) friends who watch Idol don’t bother to vote. Hell, most of my adult friends of any sexual orientation who watch Idol don’t bother to vote. It’s something for the obsessive fans and the tweens with unlimited texting plans, that’s it.

      • RK

        Lee DeWyze, who set a record for the fewest debut sales by a winner?

      • Peggy

        I agree Crystal was much better than Lee. But, as a middle-aged single woman, I take exception that you would expect me to automatically vote for the cute guy. Wrong.

      • kellybelly

        I think the phrase “teenage girls” is incorrect. I agree with Kelsey on that. It’ more the “tween” girls. Girls who are 11, 12, 13. Elementary and Middle School girls who would vote for the cute guy.
        I also think that maybe, just MAYBE, the show will be more focused on the talent this season. Look at the judges — Steven Tyler – not known for his looks. Perhaps him being part of the juding table, will bring a lot of different types of talent and viewers.
        Hooray for no gender parity! Finally.
        Next up: change the voting to 10 votes per method – call or text.

    • Jason

      Are you implying that Antonella Barba did not deserve to be there? :)

  • mralphafreak

    The gender parity: goodbye to all the girls. Now it should be obvious that a guy will win the season.
    And do I still have to bear the terrible Ford music video commercials?

    • Keith

      I agree. In theory, I’m all about doing away with gender parity. But the show has increasingly become about crowing the cute boy winner. And it’s going to head even more in that direction.

    • tomm

      Oh boo hooo, the two most successful Idols are women. Don’t like it, dont watch.

      • Aly

        That’s sort of the problem Tomm. It’s been downhill from there as it becomes less about who can actually sing and more about who’s “likable” and being the nice guy next door may be enough to get tweens to pick up the phone but it’s not enough to sell records and concert tickets.

      • colbie

        Kris Allen can “actually sing” he has an awesome voice. I’ve seen him live twioe and he can sing just great, so I don’t like what you’re impying and I’m also sick of people making that same implication. It’s old, and also, it’s wrong.

      • colbie

        I’m assuming he’s one of the people you’re referring to, because he’s likeable, etc.

      • Fatima

        And that’s why Idol has a problem with the people still voting. Kris Allen was talented ENOUGH but not a star. I don’t really want to argue the merits of recent winners (Lee has none by the way)…but coming from a success rate angle, there is a major problem with these generic white guys winning.

      • jared4ever

        Funny how you’d assume he was talking about Kris Allen lol, Cause it just proved his point.

      • just sayin

        exactly, jared, exactly… too many people think that pointing out the obvious equatees being a “hater”

      • Gordo

        last year the girls were better than the guys. they all said it’d be their year but look what happened

        idol needs girlpower. we need new Carries and Jennifers!

  • legallyblonde

    3 reasons I won’t be watching:

    1. Randy is still there.
    2. Simon isn’t.
    3. The voting is squewed.

    • Rock Golf

      You mean “skewed”?

      • Sowhatnow

        Not if you’re Elmar Fudd.

      • just sayin

        I haven’t been squewed in quite awhile!

      • Rock Golf

        Then either you’re not blond or you’re not legal.

      • JLC7930

        I kind of like squewed. Q is so under-used and it’s such a cool letter. Maybe you’ll start a new trend (like using ph instead of f).

    • Tarc

      Simon not being there is a HUGE plus in my book.

      • kahuna


      • Jennifer

        For me as well. Simon always came across like he was the one who knew music, but if you actually paid attention to what he was saying, it became obvious that he didn’t know much about music, he just knew what he thought he could sell. Sometimes he was right; plenty of times he was wrong. I won’t miss his caustic comments, nor his insistence that every singer had to belt their lungs out and have a ‘moment’. I know a lot of people like that style of singing, but I don’t care for it.

      • Kimmie

        That’s like saying that the meat taken out of a hamburger is a big plus. Simon DEFINED the show. He’s the one whose opinion both contestants and viewers valued most. Nobody gives a hang what Steven Tyler or J Lo have to say. They are both nothing but celebrity seat fillers. Anyone who’s excited for this season is in a serious state of denial. There IS no more American Idol. It died when Simon left.

  • Art

    For being in the industry, and having the biggest star come from your show be a country artist, Nigel really sounds like a tool in his description of “country flair.” Jonell Mosser did a great cover of Stop in the Name of Love. Just like I wouldn’t expect an R+B singer to develop a painful country twang if they had Reba McEntire week. Take the song, sing it the genre you would sing it. Not that hard.

    • jared4ever

      Nigel Lythgoe IS a tool. I am so sick of him.

  • Keith

    Warwick never thought any show would last 10 years on American TV? That doesn’t make sense. While most don’t, there have been shows that lasted 10 years or longer. Those shows had loyal viewers that stayed. We’ll see how Idol manages.

    • Nick

      Agreed. When AI started, there had already been TV shows that had been on for at least 10 years, like Law and Order and The Simpsons.

    • tomm

      It’s only been 8.5 years since first season, but still, shows don’t just run 1-2 years.

      • dntbstpd1

        Actually shows do run just 1-2 years if not less, lol. Tru Calling, Dollhouse, for example…Shows get cancelled in their first and second seasons all the time…

    • slick

      Agree completely. I never in my ‘wildest dreams’ believed I could vomit so heartily after hearing such banal marketing boilerplate.

  • RK

    Voting is still ruining this show — not that online would help at all.

  • moviemom

    The gender thing should have been thrown out a long time ago. Like the comment “Surely I am not going to throw out a fantastic boy for an average girl…Ummm they have done that every year…I am pretty sure we are done. Simon is gone, so is the spirit.

    • RK

      And this way, they don’t have to worry about trannies.

      • Kate

        Class. You should be proud.

      • jared4ever

        yeah, you’re a classy guy RK.

  • stephen

    This show blows. It doesn’t help any of their careers. Also, please stop with the stupid Ford commercials. When you said “no music videos” I was hoping that is what you meant. They’re ridiculous and only make your poorly produced show seem even more amateurish.

    • Kyle McMahon

      LOL I love the fact that what STEPHEN thinks is a poorly produced show is the #1 show on TV for the last 8 years – and by a LANDSLIDE. It’s ratings only ended up being down 7% last year, which was ON PAR with all of television viewing being down 10%.

      • stephen

        I love the fact that KYLE is a ratings dork. Also, Dancing with the Stars is also highly rated and it’s also a poorly produced show. Bad lighting and super cheesy. They totally cater to the rednecks in Arkansas (with their dead birds).

      • Fatima

        Idol IS a poorly produced show. It doesn’t matter where it falls in the ratings. It’s plagued by non-stop cheesiness, poor sound and lighting and an inability to stay focused and on time. Live isn’t much of an excuse considering its been on for 9 seasons twice a week and they still can’t figure it out.

      • just sayin

        Seacrest doesn’t help either. He ups the cheesy/cringe factor to the nth degree. Is there any way we can get rid of him and his self congratulatory hosting style? Watching him is as bad as watching SNL during 6 years ago when all the cast would just break character and laugh at themselves bc they were having fun (and probably high), but the audience was not!

    • cookie love

      I like the music videos. Some are very clever and it breaks up the monotony. It’s great to watch the kids’ faces when they see themselves on the video….:)

      • just sayin

        i’ve got a feeling you are one of those people who get a vicarious thrill watching shows like AI, thinking “what if that had been me”. I suggest finding something of your own to make your face light up instead. And a lot of those “kids” cringe when they see themselves in those commercials, too. bc they know they are sellouts (as if that term even exists in our pop saturated culture) and cheesy.

      • mmm

        your name makes me want to do dirty things with oatmeal, raisins, and chocolate chips!!

    • Elizabeth

      “It doesn’t help any of their careers”? Are you serious? Do you really think many–any?–of these people would have record deals, concert tours, and, in some cases, millions of dollars now if they hadn’t gotten on American Idol?

  • Dave

    They need to fix the voting. Limit the number of times you can vote for a single contestant. Too many tween girls power-texting votes for bad contestants just because they’re cute.

  • tomm

    “squewed”? What lamguage is that?

    Last year we had the kid bawling his eyes out not getting in the Top 12, and people were saying ‘something has to change’. But what about the previous 8 seasons? Kids have to learn Show Biz is tough, and they are not going to get handed a ‘career’ since they “like to sing”.

    So, if some get voted off, too bad! The show is about pop music, which is not ‘critical acclaim’ nor elitism. So, let the fans vote, and the most popular win.

    AI is not for the indie music crowd, get over it.

    • squewey lamguage

      What language is “lamguage”? One shouldn’t make fun of other people’s typos is you aren’t going to proof your own.

  • elr

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again until they change the voting system it will not matter what other changes they make.

  • gigi

    The changes are much needed. Let’s hope for good talent and judging.

  • Ktct

    I think an Idol all stars would be great- just like Top Chef is doing.
    Also, as a mother of Tweens, they don’t always vote for the, “cute one”- some kids have taste.

    • Snsetblaze

      Unlike other shows such as Survivor, this would be a really hard one to do an All-Stars edition as a contest. I’d be curious how they would do an All-Stars. Would it be all winners, all top 2, all those still under 30, certain ones culled from the top 10 or top 5, those that have an album coming out? How would the powers that be get the really successful ones to be on the show as a contestant again? For instance, Jennifer Hudson is successful although she did not even make the top 5 in her season.

      • Ktct

        I see your point, but wouldn’t it be great to see a sing off with the likes of Jennifer Hudson, Adam Lambert and David A (sp?)? I doubt that trio would return, but who knows?

      • David Cook would win~

        If there was an all-stars contest with all the past winners, I am certain David Cook would win because he has REAL talent he definitely would smoke em.

      • Blaine

        David Cook is a nice wholesome guy. But can’t see him smoking anyone other than Kris or Lee.

      • thatmustb

        Where the Hell is David Cook’s Grammy nod for vocals? Oh, that’s right Adam Lambert and Jennifer Hudson got those…funny.

    • Kelsey

      I think an All-Star would be kind of unfair. Let other people have a chance at winning, at sharing their talent!

      I did like what you said about the tweens. I’m a teen, 16 yrs old. I don’t vote for the ‘pretty boys’ at all. I vote for the people with amazing voices!

      • jt

        There are quite a few young folks who vote with consideration and taste. Unfortunately, for every one of them, there are 20 more who text vote for the “cutest” until their fingers go into spasms or the time runs out. Nobody is saying there aren’t thoughtful teenagers. The problem is that the thoughtful ones are drowned out in the foolish system as it is.

        With that said, it would help to have a few more good choices for whom to vote.

        In any case, the purpose of the show is to sell advertising, and if they find a few marketable performers, that’s gravy. If it were an actual singing contest, you’d have a very different set of participants from the very beginning – but the show would not be as popular, and thus would sell less advertising.

    • mmm

      yeah, the tweens that have taste are usually the ones with parents that have taste and have helped shape their musical preferences. however a lot of parents out there push their kids on whatever is the most generic “safe” sounding pop star (usually from the house of the mouse) that is out there.

    • jj

      You can’t compare this show to Top Chef. People in the field actually judge and choose the winners of shows like Top Chef and Project Runway. You may dispute whether they pick the best person as the winner, but usually the finalists all have talent and deserve to be there. Idol, DWTS, etc… not so much.

      • D

        I don’t think Gretchen deserved to be there…

      • Steph

        if fans could have voted Project Runway this year, Mondo would have won. I love how the PR upset leaks into other topics! Mondo!!!

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