Rumor has it that "American Idol" producers are hoping that some juicy feuding between new alpha-female judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj will bring in ratings for Season 12. And now, months before Season 12 even starts, a video has already "leaked" depicting a blowup between the two loud ladies during this Tuesday's Charlotte, North Carolina, auditions. It's probably far from the last such TMZ-obtained video we will see before a drastically different "Idol" returns to the air in 2013.
In a seemingly scandalous new fly-on-the-wall clip just posted by TMZ, a pink-wigged and dirty-mouthed Nicki is shown going off on her former "Up Out Of My Face" duet partner, shouting, "If you've got a f***ing problem, handle it!" She also yells, "I told them, I'm not putting up with her f***ing highness over here. I'm not gonna sit here every f***ing minute to have you come down and harass me every minute every day."
Meanwhile, Mariah's manager and fellow judge, Randy Jackson, sitting by his star client's side, orders Nicki to "settle down." Producer Nigel Lythgoe, who has repeatedly claimed that Mariah and Nicki are getting along just swimmingly, also steps in to intervene. New neutral-as-Switzerland judge Keith Urban, sitting in the undesirable hot seat between Nicki and Mariah, remains calm and carries on, just sipping his Coke and probably mentally going straight to his happy place. And Mariah looks exasperated; moans,"Why, why, why?"; and appears to point Nicki in the direction of the exit door. (Mariah tweeted on Tuesday late afternoon, "whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy"--but that post has since been deleted.)
TMZ additionally reports that Nicki also threatened to "knock out" Mariah, although that exchange apparently wasn't caught on tape.
While the damning video makes it seem like this battle royale between these two divas was Nicki-instigated, MouthToEars.com claims that it was Mariah who started it all. "Nicki Minaj walked off of set because Mariah Carey kept making jabs at her. Nicki's manager and team convinced her to come back to the show. Mariah kept at it and called Nicki a b***h and then proceeded to cuss her out. Producers had to stop filming and call it a night," the site reports.
Representatives for Fox had no comment at this time.
In this supposed any-publicity-is-good-publicity age, gossippy stories like this will certainly keep "Idol" in the news, at a time of year when most reality fans are focused on NBC's increasingly popular "The Voice" or Simon Cowell's new-and-improved "X Factor." But I am concerned about how this sort of hype will ultimately damage the brand of what for years has basically been a very family-friendly, feel-good program with a largely conservative fanbase. While all of these talent shows, including "Idol" in its Simon Cowell/Paula Abdul heyday, have featured judging-table fireworks that have made for some undeniably good TV, it usually all remained playful and lighthearted--a friendly-rivalry sort of thing. In those instances when inter-judge relations did seem to genuinely sour onscreen (Christina Aguilera and Adam Levine's Tony Lucca-centric feuding on "The Voice" Season 2, the obvious uncomfortable friction between Simon and the soon-to-be-fired Nicole Scherzinger on "The X Factor" Season 1), it was a major turnoff to viewers...not to mention a major distraction from the hapless contestants caught in the crossfire.
So while Mimi/Minaj drama--staged, leaked, or real--may bring about "Idol" buzz in the short term, I do suggest, for the good of the show in the long term, that producers not work this catfighting angle too much, because it will get old fast (it's already getting a little old) and just feel like another desperate ratings gimmick. However, if this is really the direction that "Idol" is going in for Season 12, I further suggest that Fox censors have their five-second-delay switches and bleep-buttons at the ready, because they're going to need such devices even more than they did when Steven Tyler was on the show.
- The pros & cons of Nicki Minaj on "Idol"
- Why Steven Tyler quit "American Idol"
- More on "American Idol"