‘Idol’ leaner but not meaner

Los Angeles Times - - Calendar - Maria Elena Fer­nan­dez

Mi­nus Simon Cowell, it’s now Steven Tyler and J.Lo plus Randy Jack­son as judges.

This is “Amer­i­can Idol 2.0.”

Af­ter al­most two months of dodg­ing me­dia ques­tions, Fox of­fi­cially an­nounced Wed­nes­day to great fan­fare at the Fo­rum what has been widely spec­u­lated upon for weeks: Jen­nifer Lopez and Aero­smith lead singer Steven Tyler are the new judges for the show’s 10th sea­son, along with Randy Jack­son.

The grandeur sur­round­ing Wed­nes­day’s news con­trasted sharply with the quiet that draped the new judges’ con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions, which seemed to drag on for more than two months. The hir­ing of the two new faces amounts to a sweep­ing over­haul of one of tele­vi­sion’s most pop­u­lar shows, which has lost its star judge, Simon Cowell, and whose rat­ings have been in de­cline.

Both per­form­ers are for­mer chart-top­pers whose ca­reers have cooled in re­cent years. Lopez, who has served as an “Idol” men­tor, has sold 25 mil­lion records world­wide but was dumped by Sony Mu­sic Group in the wake of lag­ging sales this year. Tyler, long­time front­man for the rock group Aero­smith, has tangled pub­licly with mem­bers of his band, who haven’t gone plat­inum on an orig­i­nal al­bum in nearly a decade.

“I’m call­ing ‘Idol’ Sea­son 10 the remix, baby!” Jack­son told the crowd of about 3,000 “Idol” hope­fuls who had packed into the Fo­rum to au­di­tion and hear the news from host Ryan Seacrest.

And a remix it will be when the show re­turns in Jan­uary. As first re­ported in

[See ‘Idol,’ D8]

The Times in Au­gust, mu­sic pro­ducer Jimmy Iovine, chair­man of In­ter­scope Gef­fen A&M Records, has joined the show as an in­house men­tor.

Iovine and In­ter­scope pro­duc­ers such as Tim­ba­land will work with the con­tes­tants ev­ery week to help them grow within their cho­sen genre. Con­tes­tants no longer will be forced to put their coun­try twist on the Bee Gees or their rock edge to Dolly Par­ton.

By work­ing with In­ter­scope, ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Nigel Lyth­goe said he hoped the fo­cus of the show would be to de­velop suc­cess­ful pop artists. “You look back at the his­tory, the Amer­i­can Idols, who are re­ally there now? What is in our wake?” Lyth­goe said. “You have Kelly Clark­son, Car­rie Un­der­wood, and then you start run­ning out of Idols. We have got to go back to cre­at­ing an Amer­i­can Idol.”

Lyth­goe and Iovine spoke to re­porters out­side of the Fo­rum, ac­com­pa­nied by Seacrest, the three judges, ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Ken War­wick and Fox Pres­i­dent of Al­ter­na­tive En­ter­tain­ment Mike Dar­nell. The panel kicked off the news con­fer­ence by quickly bat­ting down re­ports that ne­go­ti­a­tions with the new judges, par­tic­u­larly Lopez, had been dif­fi­cult.

“I’m kind of used to it,” Lopez said of her al­leged diva de­mands. “We know what the truth is. The truth al­ways shows it­self in who you are. To be hon­est, I wasn’t wor­ried.”

The truth is that in ad­di­tion to her $12-mil­lion salary for her work on “Idol,” Lopez has a first-look devel­op­ment deal with Fox Films to de­velop TV shows and movies.

In a con­fer­ence call with re­porters later Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, Peter Rice, chair­man of en­ter­tain­ment for Fox Net­works Group, also dis­missed spec­u­la­tion that ne­go­ti­a­tions with Lopez or Tyler had been par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult or lengthy. “Once we ac­tu­ally made them of­fers, their deals closed very quickly,” said Rice, who noted that he did not even meet with Lopez un­til Au­gust, which was af­ter word of the talks about the two join­ing the show had leaked out.

De­spite its dip in view­er­ship, “Amer­i­can Idol” could still be highly profitable for Fox and the pro­duc­ers this sea­son, even if the rat­ings tum­ble again. That’s be­cause the salaries of Lopez and Tyler com­bined won’t come close to what Cowell was pulling down.

Asked who would re­place Cowell as the tough voice on the panel, Jack­son said, “I don’t think there will be [a tough voice].”

Lopez said she be­lieved in “tough love,” but “I don’t think I ever — as an artist my­self — I could never be cruel to an­other artist.” Tyler said he was steel­ing him­self to judge young tal­ent.

“I’m sure we’re go­ing to send some peo­ple home with a bro­ken heart,” he said. “But with ev­ery­thing we’ve been through in our ca­reers, and liv­ing vi­car­i­ously through young tal­ent, it’s go­ing to be hard.”

Jack­son said that he felt “ev­ery­thing worked out the best it could” af­ter the de­par­tures of Cowell, Ellen DeGeneres and Kara Dio­Guardi.

“Idol” pro­duc­ers have tightly con­trolled the show’s im­age over the years, but the pro­gram was thrown into dis­ar­ray fol­low­ing the re­cent ex­its of Cowell, DeGeneres and Dio­Guardi.

Cowell an­nounced his plans to leave “Idol” be­fore the ninth sea­son be­gan. But DeGeneres, ap­par­ently tak­ing her cues from the pub­lic’s re­sponse, re­signed this sum­mer. DeGeneres had been hired to re­place Paula Ab­dul, who left the show un­ex­pect­edly over a con­tract dis­pute. Fox opted not to re­sign Dio­Guardi, who joined the sing­ing com­pe­ti­tion two years ago.

Ge­naro Molina

NEW CREW: Steven Tyler, left, and Jen­nifer Lopez join re­turn­ing judge Randy Jack­son at the Fo­rum an­nounce­ment, part of the over­haul of “Amer­i­can Idol.”

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