This story first appeared in the June 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
On June 10, American Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe released the statement below, analyzed here by THR and workplace politics specialist Ben Dattner, author of The Blame Game.
It has been a tremendous honor to launch and build American Idol over the course of a decade and to see it recognized with 51 nominations and six Emmy Awards, including the Academy’s highest honor, the Governors Award (1). To be a part of the spinoff program, Idol Gives Back, was incredible. As well as raising nearly $200 million for various charities it was a personal life-changing experience for me (2). It also provided me with the opportunity to produce and direct a magical sequence with Celine Dion together with Elvis Presley (3). This continues to be one of the highlights of my entire career.
Over the years, I believe we (4) have changed the face of American television forever and eventually created a true global phenomenon.
It has been inspiring to find and launch the careers of artists ranging from Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Phillip Phillips and many more, spanning all musical styles and genres.
I am truly saddened to be leaving a great team of friends and colleagues. 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 (5). It has been a great ride and I’ve loved every moment of it.
After dedicating over 12 years to Idol, I look forward to continuing work on my beloved So You Think You Can Dance, which is going strong in its 10th season (6). In addition, this will allow me more time to devote to Nigel Lythgoe Productions and our exciting new partnership with Shine America.
1. “Launch” and “build” reinforce his contribution, while leading with Emmy nods signals prestige.
2. “He’s self-aware, open-minded and not taking it personally,” says Dattner, an organizational psychologist.
3. Name-dropping celebs and reinforcing charity add a touch of class. “It’s like he’s trying to make lemonade out of lemons,” says Dattner.
4. “He often says ‘we’ and talks about working with a team, which is a good example of somebody not being petty or blaming people.”
5. Goading execs to improve ratings without him is a bit passive-aggressive, but “it’s not ego-driven. He’s making a statement about his own career accomplishments.”
6. A SYTYCD mention keeps him relevant as he subtly suggests he’s available for a new show. “If you were a Fox executive, you would see this and think, ‘I’ll take a chance on this guy.’ ”