Nigel Lythgoe

Nigel Lythgoe (Courtesy Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Nigel Lythgoe (born 9 July 1949) is an English television and film director and producer, and former dancer in the Young Generation and choreographer. He is noted for being the producer of the shows Pop Idol and American Idol as well as being a creator, executive producer and a regular judge for So You Think You Can Dance. He was also creator of the 2009 competition Superstars of Dance.

Early life

Born in Wirral, England to dockworker George Percival Lythgoe and mother Gertrude Emily Lythgoe, he became interested in dance at the age of 10. He began with tap and then went on to become a student at the Hylton-Bromley School of Dance and Drama and later at the Perry Cowell School of Dance, both in Wallasey, Merseyside where he studied classical ballet, modern jazz, ballroom, character, classical Greek and National dance from various countries. Lythgoe's first professional job was in the Corps de Ballet for the National tour of "The Merry Widow." He went on to train in London under Joanne Steuer and Molly Molloy. Beginning in 1969, Lythgoe performed with the BBC's "Young Generation" dance troupe. He later became their choreographer in 1971 and has choreographed over 500 television shows.


Early in Lythgoe's career, he learned to use techniques (e.g. multi-cameras) to film choreography well, a skill that would later lead to a TV career. During the 1970s and into the 1980s, Lythgoe had the opportunity to perform with dancers from Cyd Charisse to Gene Kelly. He also choreographed for Ben Vereen, Shirley Bassey and (most famously) the Muppets. Lythgoe, in an interview with People said that he was "the only person to dance, choreograph, produce and direct the Royal Variety Performance."

After working his way through the television industry, including working for TVS by 1995 Lythgoe held the post of Head of Entertainment and Comedy at London Weekend Television, where he commissioned and produced shows including Gladiators and Blind Date.

In 2000 he became the tough judge on Popstars and was nicknamed "Nasty Nigel" by the British tabloid press. He was loaned by London Weekend Television to Bob Geldof's television company Planet 24 to executive produce and direct the UK version of Survivor. Lythgoe then joined Simon Fuller's 19 Entertainment group as President of 19 Television. He developed and produced a new show created by Fuller, Pop Idol. This then became a global franchise that includes American Idol.

Lythgoe moved to the U.S. in 2002 to produce American Idol and then became producer/judge and co-creator of So You Think You Can Dance on the FOX television network.

Lythgoe, and his production partner Ken Warwick, who went to school together from the age of 12, initially agreed to produce the 2007 Emmys, but could not due to scheduling conflicts with SYTYCD.

In 2007, Lythgoe worked with a number of prominent California-based Brits, including then-British Consul-General Bob Peirce, to found BritWeek, an annual program of events held in Los Angeles and Orange County to celebrate the strong business, historical, and entertainment ties between the UK and California.

On 4 August 2008, Lythgoe confirmed that he was leaving American Idol and decided to move on with So You Think You Can Dance.

In 2009 Lythgoe and Fuller formed a company called Big Red 2 Entertainment. Fuller is a fan of Manchester United and Lythgoe of Liverpool FC. Both teams play in red. Their first venture was Superstars of Dance for NBC.

He is also a judge on So You Think You Can Dance (UK).

On 5 August 2010 American Idol confirmed Lythgoe would be returning as an executive producer to the hit show beginning season 10.

In November, 2012 "RumorFix" and "" revealed that Lythgoe and FOX President Mike Darnell fired original So You Think You Can Dance host Lauren Sanchez because she was pregnant. The posts include a shocking Extra video in which Lythgoe volunteers, " was Mike Darnell who said ?No she's pregnant we've got to let her go.' I mean that should be illegal," clearly unaware the firing was a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the "RumorFix" article, Sanchez, who is married to William Morris Endeavor founder Patrick Whitesell claims she and her famed attorney, Gloria Allred, "considered legal action but the statute of limitations expired."

Personal life

Lythgoe married Bonita Shawe in 1974, whom he met while he was choreographer for the BBC's Young Generation dance troupe. Shawe was also an audition judge on the first season of So You Think You Can Dance and is a judge on the Australian version of So You Think You Can Dance. The couple divorced in 2007 and have two sons together, Simon and Kristopher and four grandchildren Kyan, Tighe, Dominie and George.

He suffered a heart attack in January 2003. He gave up his 60-a-day cigarette habit as a result. He nearly died from a burst appendix in October 2003.

He owns a vineyard in Paso Robles, California.

Producer filmography (partial)

Director filmography


  • 2011 International Emmy: Founders Award - Winner
  • 2008 Emmy: Outstanding Reality/Competition Program - Nominee
  • 2007 The Governors Award - Winner
  • 2007 Emmy: Outstanding Reality/Competition Program - Nominee
  • 2006 Emmy: Outstanding Reality/Competition Program - Nominee
  • 2005 Emmy: Outstanding Reality/Competition Program - Nominee
  • 2004 Emmy: Outstanding Reality/Competition Program - Nominee
  • 2003 Grammy: Album of the Year - Nominee


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