‘American Idol’ and Mariah Carey join forces

Fox is once again betting on an aging diva to revitalize"American Idol.”

Mariah Carey, who in her heyday was one of the most popular singers on the planet, has been tapped to replace Jennifer Lopez as a judge on the musical talent show.

In a moment of faux drama, Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly called the pop star Monday on his phone during the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Beverly Hills to share the news with television journalists.

“I think it’s the biggest recording artist that any of these shows have ever had,” said Reilly.


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Carey, who is wrapping up production on her latest album, said she can’t wait to join the show.

“It’s going to be fun,” she said, adding that it will be rewarding to “help find new talent and give back with ‘American Idol.’”

It’s also going to be expensive.

Though Fox did not comment on the terms of Carey’s contract, sources estimate she’ll be making $17 million for the upcoming season of “American Idol.” Reilly would not comment on her salary, but added that given the show’s vital importance to the network this was no time to cut judges’ pay.

Driving up the cost of star judges are all the “American Idol” copycat shows, such as NBC’s"The Voice” and even Fox’s"The X Factor.”

“It would be nice if we were the only show negotiating with these people,” Reilly said.

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Fox still has to find a replacement for Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler, who, like Lopez, left the show after two seasons. The third judge, Randy Jackson, is expected to return when the show comes back in January.

Despite many years of stability on the show, which will be entering its 12th season, the recent and rapid turnover of judges on “American Idol” may continue and actually become a strategy to keep it fresh.

“Change is going to be part of this show going forward,” Reilly said.

After a season that saw its audience shrink by more than 20%, fixing “American Idol” is a priority for Fox. Although it is still a very profitable show, it is not as dominant as it was a few years ago.


Finding one more judge isn’t Fox’s only priority. Nigel Lythgoe, executive producer of “American Idol,” still has not signed a new contract to return to the show. Lythgoe, who also produces Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance,” would say only that “we’re in negotiations.”

For Carey, the platform could boost her singing career, as it did for Lopez. Carey has mostly stayed out of the spotlight since becoming a mother in 2010. The 42-year-old belter’s last album, “Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel,” was released in 2009, opening at No. 3. Her recent TV experience comes from appearing in ads for Jenny Craig.

Lopez was able to parlay her “American Idol” gig into several endorsement deals, and the exposure gave her flagging music and movie career a much-needed jolt.

“American Idol” isn’t the only Fox show getting an overhaul. “The X Factor” will usher in Britney Spears and Demi Lovato as its star judges when it returns in the fall. The pop singers replace Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger, who were shown the door after one season.


“I was fascinated by her as a pop star,” Cowell said of Spears in a panel Monday afternoon. “There’s something intriguing about her.” In talking about the decision to add Lovato, Cowell added, “I think the show, because it has such a young audience, needed someone a bit younger.”

But the role of host of “The X Factor” is still vacant, considering that British import Steve Jones was also a personnel casualty. Cowell said he’s looking to get a man and woman to divide duties — as had been the original plan before the show’s debut last fall. A host announcement is expected to be made in mid-August.

Staying in the realm of singing, Reilly said there are no plans to revisit the idea of a spinoff for “Glee.” As the new season embarks on some of its major characters heading to New York, there was early talk of that leading into another show. As for the network’s attempt to move forward with a reboot of its popular sketch show “In Living Color,” it looks as though it’s been put on hold indefinitely.

Reilly, it seemed, wasn’t pleased with what he had seen, saying he didn’t want to put out “a lesser version of what it was.”