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TCA Press Tour: Fox executives talk about not talking about 'American Idol'

August 2, 2010 | 12:53 pm

Senior Fox executives were hoping to unveil a new panel of judges for "American Idol" on Monday at the semiannual television critics press tour.

Instead they spent a lot of time talking about what they couldn't talk about. While people close to the show confirm that musicians Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler have all but signed deals to join "American Idol" next January, Fox brass stayed mum. The network also declined to comment on whether former executive producer Nigel Lythgoe was returning to "American Idol" as well.

"The only thing I can tell you with absolute certainty is no one has signed a deal," said Peter Rice, the entertainment chairman of the Fox Networks Group. He added, in the understatement of the year, that it is "not a fun announcement." Rice said the network expects to have its new panel in place by September, when auditions for "American Idol" hit full steam.

Already gone from "American Idol," the nation's most-watched television show, are Simon Cowell and Ellen DeGeneres. DeGeneres left the program after just one season. Kara DioGuardi is also expected to exit, while Randy Jackson, who has been with the show since Day One, is likely to return.

Rice said he thought DeGeneres was "great on the show" and would have liked her to have stayed. As for whether all the media attention around the show helps or hinders the efforts to revitalize it, he said, "doing this in a public fishbowl is very hard."

Whether either Lopez or Tyler will try to take on Cowell's role as a kingmaker on "American Idol" remains to be seen.

"We have to respect how much people love this format, and yet we have to make sure that in its 10th season that it's engaging and fun and people enjoy it," Rice said. 

While Rice wouldn't talk about any changes to the show, he did promise that there would still be people singing and being judged.

Phew.

— Joe Flint and Maria Elena Fernandez

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