Producers at “American Idol” may have just poured more gasoline on the fire between some of urban music’s biggest divas. Idol judge Mimi was already heated at J.Lo for taking Nicki Minaj’s side in their beef, now rumor has it that execs behind the show tried saving flagging ratings by replacing Mariah with Jenny from the Block!
With ratings in a steep slide, American Idol producers and Fox executives in recent weeks hatched a dramatic plan to jumpstart the show: replace judge Mariah Carey with Jennifer Lopez, according to knowledgeable sources.
These sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Carey, who was touted as the big new addition to the judge’s panel this year, responded with a threat of litigation. With that, the plan was dropped, though Idol’s producers still are negotiating with Lopez, who served as a popular judge during the past two seasons, to appear on the show’s finale in May. And insiders say a search already has begun to replace Carey, most likely Nicki Minaj and possibly the entire judge’s panel for next season.
“This is just another ridiculous Idol judge rumor, likely started by talks of Jennifer performing on the finale,” a Fox spokeswoman tells THR in a statement. Producer Fremantle NorthAmerica declines to comment. A rep for Carey denies these allegations. Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe tells THR: “I have not been included in any conversation regarding replacing Mariah with Jen this season.”
The Wednesday performance show is currently averaging a 4.3 rating with adults 18-49, its worst performance since its inaugural season in 2001. And it is dropping nearly every week.
Even worse for Idol, the robust reboot of NBC’s The Voice with Shakira and Usher recently has seen ratings climb to a 5.2 rating in the demo during the same week Idol bottomed out with a series low 2.8 rating. Adding insult to injury, Idol made headlines last week when preliminary numbers showed its total viewers for a results show was beaten by a repeat of CBS’ The Big Bang Theory.
Sources say Fox reality chief Mike Darnell and Fremantle’s Cecile Frot-Coutaz have been especially concerned about the Idol ratings trajectory, and they hoped that a surprise shake-up on the judges’ panel would help. Carey, a multiplatinum and Grammy-winning singer, is perhaps Idol’s most pedigreed judge ever. But despite her eight-figure salary, she has seemed passive and disengaged in her comments on the show, failing to generate the kind of fan following that Lopez had when she judged.
By contrast, Minaj has turned into Idol’s sharp-tongued firebrand, especially seated next to more vanilla judge Keith Urban and stalwart Randy Jackson. Nonetheless, internal Fox research is said to show that Minaj is not a hit with some of the show’s audience. “The core viewer is a midwestern, Southern, older woman who is threatened by Nicki’s aggressiveness,” says one knowledgeable source.
Since producers backed off their plan to shake up the show mid-season, attention is said to have already turned to next season. A source who has been approached as a possible judge replacement tells THR that Idol producers are looking for “not necessarily a star” to join the show. That might include a music professional with strong credentials.
Do you think J.Lo could have made a difference with the ratings? Is it just time for “American Idol” to bow out gracefully?