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December 15, 2008

'Idol' producer talks format changes, Abdul

Approved_ai_08paulajazz_0392abrf_1 "American Idol" executive producer Ken Warwick took questions from reporters Monday on the show's new format changes and judge Paula Abdul's latest melodrama -- a suicidal fan that producers allowed into an audition.

Here's Warwick...

On obsessed fan Paula Goodspeed being allowed into the audition room: “We do the best we can. I didn’t know this person was a risk, what some term a ‘stalker.’ I knew the person was a fan ... [Abdul] certainly didn’t mention it to me; she certainly didn’t mention it to somebody with the clout to do something about it ... There have been people aggressive in the past that we didn’t let through to the judges. Very often we will let fans through because it’s good TV. I wasn’t even aware that this person was little more of a fan. I would never put somebody I thought was dangerous in any way in front of the judges. It’s an unfortunate situation, but these things happen.”

On the format changes and next season’s ratings: “I’m not overly concerned. I think we will drop, because everything else has this season. There were no panic changes. This show wouldn’t have been on the TV for eight years if it wasn’t being done right ... We are tweaking around, trying to make it a bit more interesting. Some things will work, some won’t.”

On whether Abdul’s job is at risk: “There’s never been any discussion that we would want to get rid of Paula, even if there were people in production who didn’t like her. We’ve never had the discussion. America loves Paula, she’s an integral part of the program. I hope she’s there to the day she comes off the air ... She is one of the building blocks of this series.”

On whether the show’s tone will change:

“In many respects there are a couple less bad [singers]. There are places we went to, like Puerto Rico, and many weren’t very good at all. Hollywood [rounds have] been extended, and we did that because the show was always so good with so much emotion there. We thought it would be better to extend the Hollywood weeks and cut down on first shows.”

On bringing back the “wildcard” round: “Whenever we can we want to change things up a little bit. Doing the 12 and 12, doing the final eight we had been living with these kids for eight weeks already. And if any of them don’t have fantastic characters it becomes slightly boring.”

On working without executive producer Nigel Lythgoe: “It’s not a hugely different workload. The responsibility and stress is the same as it always was.”

On the addition of a fourth judge: “It slightly changes the dynamic ... If Kara [DioGuardi] and Paula see a contestant that they think shows potential they could gang up on Simon, which is good TV.”

On canceling "Idol Gives Back": “It’s an incredible stretch when we’re making three sometimes four hours of broadcast TV to add the weight of a huge charity show on top of that stretches the team to keep the standard of the main show up and keep ‘Gives Back’ something special. We would do it if we thought it would be worth it. It’s a difficult financial time for everybody.”




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