Nigel Lythgoe, executive producer of American Idol, may have said it all when he responded to the news that Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler were leaving/booted off as judges on American Idol, one day apart from one another.
“I have to respect both Jennifer and Steven’s decisions. They’ve got a much bigger career than just sitting judging Idol,” Lythgoe, said on Ryan Seacrest’s radio show. “They’re both very talented people and you have to respect their decision to carry on and do what they were doing before Idol. It breaks my heart, because I love them both dearly.”
The truth is, Idol can’t afford the big names. Even Mariah Carey’s hubby stated, allegedly jokingly, that they couldn’t afford his wife as a judge for the show. Sadly, that’s very likely the truth.
The fact is, Lythgoe has stated that he is considering that AI may have to look at the judges for the panel on a year by year basis and consider them only for one year stints on the show rather than the long-termed contracts that AI had been handing out. He’s said that while there’s a long list of names coming at him, “he’s looking for the The Three Stooges (nice term to call potential judges, Lythgoe. That should draw them to the show by the hordes.) but…at the end of the day, I think what we have to talk about is just using people for a year.” (Again, nice way to put it Nigel. “Using people for a year”?)
While Ryan Seacrest agreed with that idea, saying that “while we want these big stars…and we do…you cannot take them away from what they do…you’re just constantly keeping things interesting,” there are issues with that kind of thinking that I can see from both sides of the coin that need to be taken into consideration.
The big stars aren’t necessarily going to want to leave their current work for the sums that AI can afford to pay them. They’d likely be making far more, doing what they do. It’s hard to believe that they’d want to sign on for a year away from what they do if they are already doing well at it. If they are doing well at it, they aren’t going to settle necessarily for the contracted money for that time away and risk losing momentum in their own careers.
It seems that it’s going to take pulling artists and music industry big names, out of mothballs so to speak due to both the time investment as well as the wages. However, while they’re more likely to do it for less, they’re also more prone to doing the stints to revive their own status and career as AI has seemingly done for both Lopez and Tyler. There’s also big risk in using judges whose careers are either stalled or collecting dust especially, given the fact that the sponsors want the young blood viewership for Idol. That also dumps Randy Jackson.
Some have speculated that Idol is watching its last days coming up and I concur with that idea, sadly. In order to stay afloat, Idol execs have stated that they will have to cut both staff and salaries. Judges salaries will have to be nearly or more than halved. That means approximately $5 to $7 million for an entire season’s worth of work, something a lot of music industry stars can earn in a couple of months in doing their own thing. The exception to this salary cut would, of course, be Randy Jackson who has already penned in a multi-year contract with the show. Could this spell producers and FOX using the “exit clause” allegedly built into Jackson’s contract who has yet to be either confirmed or not as to his return to his seat for the 2013 season, ironically or not.
I still find it eerily ironic that both Lopez and Tyler made their exit announcements with a day of one another. Could it be that the “pink slips” were being handed out that week? Both Lopez and Tyler were making some big bucks at the judge’s tables over the two years they were judges so, it’s ironic that their year-by-year chairs were suddenly both vacated for them to pursue other endeavors….interestingly enough.
It’s been suggested that AI Alum might make good judges but, with Carrie Underwood having reportedly made $20 million during 2011 and David Cook having tied her earnings last year, it’s highly unlikely either of them would even blink at the idea of a seat on AI. Both Daughtry and Adam Lambert hauled in an estimated $6 million in 2011 so, they both might be interested. Lambert has already stated that he would have an interest in a seat. While Kelly Pickler, David Archuleta, Fantasia Barrino and Kelly Clarkson, all netted far below that level, sitting at between $1.8 to $2 million each, it’s not looking like any of them would have the show’s “draw” that’s needed in those judge’s seats.
With X Factor judge’s salaries in the $15 million range and The Voice, similarly salaried, it’s going to be really hard for FOX and Idol execs to pull in the big, current names that are popular with the younger targeted audiences at those types of salaries. That’s the huge mistake that both the sponsors and the show is making.
When Idol was new and pretty much the only singing competition on tv, along with draws like Simon Cowell’s mouth without a censor filter, drawing in the viewers, the show could afford to pay out the salaries and bring in the bigger names. Now that Cowell has branched off and done his own thing with one season old, hit-show X Factor and The Voice, Idol doesn’t have the same advantage it once did and needs a huge overhaul to stay alive.
As I see it, Idol and FOX would be better off courting other sponsors for the show and upping the contestant age range, thus, raising the viewership ranges. That would also allow a much broader leeway for judging potentials.
Sadly, I see a show struggling that may not be able to recover. It isn’t just Lopez and Tyler leaving or Jackson staying (though I feel that a mistake as well should he stay on but, am feeling doubtful now that he will). It’s the fact that Idol hasn’t upped the ante by changing to suit what the viewers want. Cowell seems to have gotten it right. At least for now.
I still say Ozzie Osbourne would be a hoot but, Lythgoe wants “chemistry” between the judges. Ozzie may need a table and chair on another planet. However, anyone thought about Kelly Osbourne? She’s pretty raunchy, controversial, lived the music biz most of her life through her dad and her own stab at it. Last I heard, she wasn’t doing much in her own career.
There’s also far-out celebs like, Lisa Marie Presley (Elvis Presley’s daughter) who has a mouth on her, is straight up and tells it like it is. She could potentially be a female Simon Cowell and while she doesn’t need the money, she may be someone who wants to get back into the public eye just for the hell of it or, to perhaps, re-start her own music career.
There’s plenty of people out there but, it’s going to take some pretty quick, out of the box thinking and decisions to get the show up again and competing.
Or, maybe, they could have Madam Tussaud create a Simon Cowell mannequin and edit audio clips of Cowell’s “atrocious, horrific, sounds like a karaoke version in a bar, I feel like I’m on a cruise ship and you’re the entertainment…”, simply hitting the button when it’s the dummy’s turn to speak up? Wonder how much it would cost them to have Cowell give permission for that? Likely…out of their salary budget.