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HOME > American Idol > American Idol 7

'American Idol' producer discusses seventh-season format changes

By Christopher Rocchio, 11/05/2007 

In an effort to get more face time for its seventh-season finalists, American Idol's weekly musical mentors will apparently have to take a backseat.

"We did make something of a mistake with Idol by focusing so much on the mentors," executive producer Nigel Lythgoe told The New York Post in a Monday report.  "We got such good mentors [during the Spring 2007 sixth installment] that we forgot about... getting across who these kids were, their backgrounds and families."

The Idol and So You Think You Can Dance executive producer was echoing comments he previously made during July's Television Critics Association summer press tour.  Lythgoe said whereas Idol hits viewers over the head with video montages of its often star-struck contestants working with the weekly mentors, So You Think You Can Dance instead uses lesser known yet still recognizable choreographers to teach hopefuls as well as focuses more on each dancers' preparation and back story.

He said the format change of focusing more on the singers and less on the mentors will occur for the Fox mega-hit's seventh season.

"There are legends in our business that hopefully will come along as mentors on Idol this season, but not every single week," Lythgoe told The Post.  "I want to know about the kids, what makes them tick, what got them singing."

Idol 7's seven-city audition process wrapped last month, and Lythgoe said it proved to be somewhat fruitful.

"There are one or two that stand-out," he told The Post.  "There are three girls who are superb, including one girl we saw three years ago who wasn't an American citizen [and is now] and we're happy to have her this year... And we've got one or two guys who are really good."

Lythgoe said the competition's "Hollywood Round" -- where 160 hopefuls are narrowed to 24 semifinalists -- will begin at the end of November.

"We'll bring everyone there, and the judges will spend four days with them and bring the list down to the Top 24 contestants -- 12 boys and 12 girls," Lythgoe told The Post.

While Lythgoe's description of the "Hollywood Round" doesn't seem to deviate from past Idol installments -- he said one aspect will be different --  and it seems to steal a page from Fox's new Idol-like show The Next Great American Band.

"We knew Chris Daughtry, [Carrie Underwood] and [Bo Bice] could play the guitar but we really couldn't show it," Lythgoe told The Post.  "If [the contestants] can play an instrument this year we want to be able to see that, and we'll introduce a couple of days of that during Hollywood week."

Lythgoe was quick to add he's unsure if the format change will carry over to Idol's seventh-season semifinals when they commence next year.

"We'll make a decision when we see how many really talented people we have," he told The Post.

In addition, Lythgoe said another small format change involving Idol and So You Think You Can Dance's post-season tours could be in the works.  Tour dates for Idol and So You Think You Can Dance's post-season tours usually overlap, but have never coincided.

"I'd love to see the Dance tour go out with the Idol tour and put the singing and dancing together," Lythgoe told The Post.  "They should never be separate... I'd like to see that happen."

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