Last week, "American Idol" executive producer Nigel Lythgoe blamed this season's slumping ratings on a lack of judge chemistry, and then beloved original judge Paula Abdul made a surprise cameo on the program and even sat in her old center seat behind the judging table. So perhaps it's not a massive surprise that "Idol's" honchos may be considering retooling the panel for Season 13.
What is surprising? A new report that claims producers secretly plotted to replace incumbent judge Mariah Carey, whose $18 million salary makes her the highest-paid judge on reality TV right now, with former judge Jennifer Lopez--in the middle of this current season!
According to The Hollywood Reporter, "Idol's" dastardly master plan was thwarted when Mariah threatened legal action. But THR reports that producers are still looking to replace Mariah in Season 13, and may clean-sweepingly replace the entire panel--including Mariah's controversial castmate Nicki Minaj, whose feud with Mariah generated a massive backlash among conservative longtime viewers, and even veteran judge Randy Jackson, who happens to be Mariah's manager.
Personally, I wouldn't object to "Idol" replacing Mariah next year--her annoying tendency to ramble makes her seem like she's earning her eight-figure paycheck by the word, and she has occasionally revealed an embarrassing lack of broad musical knowledge. But the reinstatement of the cloyingly kind J.Lo--who was an even less effective judge during her two-season run, and doesn't even have Mariah's pedigree as a world-class singer--wouldn't exactly be my ideal solution to "Idol's" ratings problem.
That's why I am intrigued by THR's additional report that "Idol" producers are open to having "not necessarily a star" join the cast next year. I've been advocating the hiring of non-celebrity industry professionals (heavyweights like Rick Rubin, Quincy Jones, Linda Perry, Dr. Luke, or even current in-house mentor Jimmy Iovine) as "Idol" judges for a while now, and I think such a move could restore credibility to the show--at a fraction of Mariah or Nicki's salaries, it should be noted.
So Jennifer Lopez may not be returning to "American Idol" on a full-time basis, but we may see her back on the show soon enough--since, according THR's bombshell article, the show's producers are negotiating to bring J.Lo back for this season's May 16 finale. Gee, I wonder how Mariah would react to that booking...
UPDATE: Representatives for Fox had no comment when the THR story first broke Monday night, but released the following statement on Tuesday: "This is just another ridiculous 'Idol' judge rumor, likely started by talks of Jennifer performing on the finale."