‘American Idol’ hires new executive producer

Reshuffling at ‘American Idol’
“American Idol” producers Ken Warwick, left, and Nigel Lythgoe are exiting the singing contest, Fox said Sunday.
(Rene Macura / Associated Press)

A changing of the guard is underway on “American Idol,” with a new executive producer announcement Monday.

Following news that its two longtime producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick were making their exits from the singing competition show came Monday’s announcement from FremantleMedia North America, one of the makers of the Fox headliner, that it has anointed Per Blankens as an executive producer.  Blankens is well-versed in the “Idol” franchise, having spent five years in command of the Swedish version.

The behind-the-scenes reshuffling is just one part of a major overhaul the show is undergoing in an attempt to resuscitate its flailing ratings. A few weeks ago, Fox announced that its longtime president in charge of alternative programming -- and longtime guard of “Idol” -- Mike Darnell was leaving after 18 years with the network.

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In addition to FremantleMedia, the Fox singing series is produced by 19 Entertainment, which is also expected to draft an executive producer.

Fox confirmed over the weekend that Lythgoe and Warwick would not continue on as executive producers on “Idol.”  Lythgoe took the blunt approach in confirming the news Saturday on Twitter, saying he’d been fired, but following up that his relationship with the network was not totally sullied: He’ll stay on producing “So You Think You Can Dance.”

Having more time to formulate his thoughts, the more public Lythgoe offered a verbose official statement Monday that ballyhooed his accomplishments during his tenure: Emmy wins, raising money for “Idol Gives Back” and the opportunity to produce and direct the holographic duet/ “magical sequence” with Celine Dione and Elvis Presley.

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“I am truly saddened to be leaving a great team of friends and colleagues,” he said in his statement. “However, at the end of the day, the most important thing is to maintain this incredible platform for America’s young talent. This will only happen with the success of the program. If the executives that are now in charge of ‘American Idol’ believe that the ratings will improve with my departure, I have no complaints.”

Of course, the musical chairs on the judges panel generates more headlines. Already, Randy Jackson, Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey have announced they will not be returning. No official announcement has been made regarding Keith Urban’s fate on the judge’s panel (although what are the odds?). There’s growing talk that “Idol” alumni, most notably Jennifer Hudson, will be tapped to fill the seats.

The 13th season of “American Idol” is scheduled to roll out in January.

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