Chuck Ross: Hello everybody. Once again it's Chuck Ross here at TelevisionWeek and we're so happy to have on the line Nigel Lythgoe, who is executive producer and showrunner of "American Idol," and it's been quite a week, Nigel.
Nigel Lythgoe: Well, we've now got the 12 and a lot of controversy as well, I think.
Mr. Ross: I think so. I first want to talk about the show that you directed. They had to whittle down 172 contestants [with] twice as many gals as guys. And right from the beginning of that show, Jory comes out and all six girls come out and I thought, "Well, they're going to pick one or two," and boom, bam, all six girls were out and that certainly set the tone.
Mr. Lythgoe: It did; it was murderous to watch. We sat there, and I was in truck directing, and I was just totally shocked because I thought there were at least two good ones there. But they knew that they had to get rid of a lot of girls that day, and they did.
Mr. Ross: Just so sad. A couple of stories I just wanted to highlight, one that Simon himself thought would go all the way, which is Bailey Brown. She had forgotten her words and that seemed to be the end of it.
Mr. Lythgoe: I know. I'm rather hoping that Bailey will come back next year and remember her words, a little bit like Nick Gonzalez did.
Mr. Ross: Exactly; and I can't imagine her not trying to do this again. She's only 16 and clearly she's gorgeous, as Simon mentioned; she seems to have the whole package. She's got a beautiful voice…
Mr. Lythgoe: It was interesting to note that one of the web polls said that she was number three to win the entire competition.
Mr. Ross: And [she] never even got through. The other thing I thought was so moving from Hollywood is Matt's story. [He] had problems with his mom and a mom who was not supportive and had barely even said, "I love you" to him and all that and boy I was sure pulling for him.
Mr. Lythgoe: That's one of those stories that just grabs you, isn't it? The producers always try and find the stories that are going to mean something to America and that was surely one of them.
Mr. Ross: Let's jump over to the final 24 because that's what's on everybody's minds going into the subsequent weeks here. We had a number of people, I think there were six or seven, that we barely, if ever, had seen before, which I thought was pretty interesting.
Mr. Lythgoe: Well I think that's the same every year, I think at least now you've seen all of them. I remember Kelly Clarkson saying to me, "They never really saw me," and it didn't stop her winning. But it is amazing how people do get lost and unless there's a major story there, it's very difficult to feature them. People like Matt and the story with his mom takes a lot of air time and unfortunately we lose them, and although we invest in them, they're gone.
Mr. Ross: And you do that every year and I think we understand and it's a lot of fun. One of the stories this year was the gentleman who was out there, Sanjaya, without his sister this time, who was one of your early stories.
Mr. Lythgoe: Well he's through.
Mr. Ross: Exactly. I think it will be interesting and I'm sure his sister will be his number one fan. So we'll see where that goes. I loved the fact that we had two back-up singers, a man and a woman, and Melinda Doolittle, it's so interesting, because when we first saw her, she just seemed, if I can use the word, a little mousy and you thought, "Well, of course she's a back-up singer," but then you saw some of that footage from Hollywood and she can step up.
Mr. Lythgoe: I remember when we first saw her, she wore that little cap and she looked like something out of a Dickens novel like Oliver Twist. She could hold a little bowl up and say, "Please, can I have some more?" But now she's really coming out of herself, I mean she really…hell of a voice, hell of a voice.
Mr. Ross: And as you mentioned, [there were] some great stories we sort of started last season, which was Gina and Nick, and we're going to be interested to see where they go as well.
Mr. Lythgoe: Indeed.
Mr. Ross: It should be a lot of fun. One of my favorites, I have to say, already this year is Lakisha. [She has] a wonderful, wonderful story and if you remember from last year, I was a big fan of Madisa and this woman I think has got a tremendous voice, she's got an incredible delivery and right now she's one of my favorites.
Mr. Lythgoe: And her little daughter. Well I think we've got some great characters again this year. I think Chris Sligh has got a lot of humor…I think our little beat boxer is very talented, not just in beat-boxing, but in singing as well. Sundance, I think, did not show his best in Hollywood and I think the judges forgave him a lot, in truth, and sort of remembered him from his first audition. It's a shame they didn't do that with Bailey.
Mr. Ross: That brings up a question that some of the fans have asked me and wondered if I could ask you, which is…speaking of Sundance and some of the choices they made last night…are a little more personality driven? If they're going to give the edge to someone, maybe the personality's going to throw them over if the singing's not quite there one night.
Mr. Lythgoe: That's absolutely a fact of life. You have to remember that this is a popularity competition just as much as it is a talent competition. An Idol has to have everything; an Idol has to have personality; an Idol has to be a star. I don't particularly think, although she's very good, Jennifer Lopez has the greatest voice of all time, but she's a star. She has star quality and that is why people adore her. And [she has] a really good voice, not a great voice. And it's the same with "American Idol." Not always our best voices win every year, it's up there with personality, and it's up there with magnetism. And I think when you're judging somebody, if they stand out in your head…you're looking at 174 people and [have] got to figure out who your 24 are. So there must be something you can latch onto, and America does that when they vote.
Mr. Ross: One of the other things that the fans asked me to bring up, it's been mentioned in a couple of the sites, is a little excitement building that maybe we'll have an appearance with a man known for his glove, Mr. Michael Jackson. Anything you can tell us along those lines?
Mr. Lythgoe: No. It's not true, is what I can say, just not true.
Mr. Ross: So you're saying we just won't see him this year, or is that something that's just up in the air still?
Mr. Lythgoe: No, we won't be seeing him.
Mr. Ross: Well thank you for putting an end to that.
Mr. Lythgoe: Yeah, I much prefer, rather than teasing anybody with it, that the fact is he will not be on "American Idol."
Mr. Ross: Anything you can tell us about the contest we're doing and how that's going?
Mr. Lythgoe: No, there's nothing else that I can sort of fill you in at the moment with, but please, please look towards a major news announcement in the next couple of weeks.
Mr. Ross: Ah ha! Regarding "Idol" and…what would it be? Give us one little more tease.
Mr. Lythgoe: It's the biggest thing that's happened to "Idol" in five years. But it does include "American Idol" and it does include America.
Mr. Ross: Wow. Well, what a tease, Nigel. I don't know what to say. Maybe you'll give us a little more hint next week. I certainly appreciate it; we're going to be looking. Anything you want to tell us about the shows for next week? We got five hours, I think, next week?
Mr. Lythgoe: Yes indeed; you've got Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Tuesday is going to be the 12 boys, Wednesday is going to be the 12 girls and then Thursday we're going to figure out which four are going to go home. Two boys and two girls will be cut. And we've got a great performance from a really good artist.
Mr. Ross: Excellent. Well, we're so much looking forward to it. Thank you so much for doing these and we'll talk to you next week. Thank you so much.
Mr. Lythgoe: Chuck, thank you very much.