Former "American Idol" executive producer and showrunner Nigel Lythgoe is close to signing a deal to return to the show, reports The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed blog.
The return of Lythgoe could mean more changes among the show’s judges, the story says: "Industry rumors have been circulating for weeks that Fuller and Fox are considering not just replacing Cowell, but dumping the entire judges panel.
"And the biggest public advocate of such a nuclear option is Lythgoe, who told a reporter in April that if he was in charge, he would replace all the remaining judges. Lythgoe was also a critic of having four judges on the show instead of three, saying having an extra judge distracts viewers from focusing on the competitors."
Lythgoe, who graciously did a weekly "American Idol" podcast here on our website for two seasons, "helped launch the ‘Idol’ phenomenon in the U.K. with ‘Pop Idol’ along with creator Fuller and shepherded the U.S. version for six years. He currently produces and judges Fox’s ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ " the story notes.
The article also says that on Fuller’s wish list of judges, besides his previously reported interest in Elton John, is Justin Timberlake.
As for the contract status of the judges: Simon Cowell is gone, of course. Randy Jackson has one year to go on his contract. Kara DioGuardi appears on a year-to-year basis and has not been renewed for next season, the article says. Talk-show host and stand-up comic Ellen Degeneres has a multi-year deal, the story notes.