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TV Column
Posted at 06:42 PM ET, 10/03/2012

‘Idol’ judge fight: Manufactured or real? Does it matter?


New judges for "American Idol," from left: Mariah Carey, Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj and Randy Jackson. (Michael Becker - AP)
Fox hit the mother lode Wednesday when video of one new “American Idol” judge attacking another new “Idol” judge got leaked to the media.

And if Nicki Minaj — you guessed that, right? — actually did suggest, as one report claims, that if she had a gun, she would shoot Mariah Carey . . . well, you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs.

And by “omelet,” we mean the inordinate amount of chatter on TV, online and in the social ether Wednesday for a singing-competition series that last season suffered its smallest numbers since its summer 2002 launch — and that isn’t even scheduled to return to Fox’s lineup for three more months.

Fox and the show’s producers declined to take credit for, or comment on, what many assumed was a brilliantly orchestrated publicity stunt. They’re being too modest; at the very least, they deserve full credit for so quickly realizing the upside of their decision to put crazy + crazy together on the new “Idol” judging panel.

“Could you please place a ‘paid advertisement’ warning on these types of stories?” asked someone in the tsunami of Web comments about the “Idol” judge dust-up, adding: “This is OBVIOUSLY a manufactured feud for ratings.”

“Don’t watch the show but it seems it is all about the judges and not about the singers anymore. Is that correct?” weighed in another.

“Idol” exec producer Nigel Lythgoe insisted the report that Minaj threatened Carey with physical harm is “absolute rubbish.” This he knows, he said, because “Mariah confronted Nicki” Wednesday morning and asked whether she made the death threat Tuesday and “Nicki said, ‘Absolutely not.’ ”

Carey’s people are “stirring the pot and gave her bad info,” Lythgoe told TMZ — “Idol’s “in-house” publicity machine, where the singing competition every season sends its Idolettes for on-camera paparazzi training.

Were Carey not in the auditions room when Minaj was ranting, and getting all her information secondhand, Lythgoe’s comments might make sense. But Carey was in the room, as seen in the video, with only skinny Keith Urban separating her from Minaj. Lythgoe was there, too; you can see him in the video, which first turned up on — you know it’s coming — TMZ.

In the video — from auditions in Charlotte on Tuesday — Minaj is seen sitting at a far end of the judges’ table, where Steven Tyler sat the past two seasons. Next to her sits Urban, and Carey sits on his other side, followed by Randy Jackson, the only returning judge, who’s in the chair he’s occupied since Simon Cowell left the show.

Minaj and Carey exchange words after disagreeing about an auditioner’s performance — at the end of a long day of auditions, show host Ryan Seacrest noted Wednesday morning on his syndicated radio show.

“Think I’m playin’? Think this [expletive] is a [expletive] joke?” Minaj is heard saying.

After then saying “think it’s a joke?” two times, she added: “If you say one more disrespectful thing to me — off with your head!”

“TIME OUT! TIME OUT!” Randy began to shriek.

“Excuse me, I am not being disrespectful,” Carey is heard responding.

“Off with your head! Off with your head!” said Minaj, driving home her point.

“Don’t tell me I’m insecure, don’t tell me I’m inadequate. ... You’re the insecure one, sittin’ up there running down her resume every five minutes,” Minaj continued, addressing Carey.

Which is totally unfair of Carey, if true, because running through one’s resume has always been Randy’s thing on “Idol.”

Once or twice, Urban throws up his hands and says something inaudible. Mostly, he just sits there, hoping not to get hurt.

“ I told them, I’m not [expletive] putting up with your [expletive] highness over there. ... Figure it the [expletive] out,” Minaj continued, warming to her theme.

“Figure it out! Figure it out,” Minaj concluded — making it three, in all.

“Time OUT! Time Out!” suggested Randy.

“I’m not sitting here for 20 minutes and having you run down your resume everyday, No! Goodbye!” Minaj continued.

Carey decided to play the Adorable Newborn Twins card:

“I can’t see my kids because you decided. . .to have a little crazy fit and run all around the stage,” she complained.

“Good, well then go see them now! Go see them now. . . . You’re boring as [expletive]!” Minaj suggested.

On his radio show, Seacrest insisted that it was all in a day’s judging.

“[There’s] nothing wrong with disagreeing . . . That’s gonna happen, and it’s okay,” he said.

“These are all very different individuals with different perspectives and different opinions that provide for interesting conversation and dialogue and feedback for the contestants,” he said.

“This is a good team — a great team, to go out and look for the next American Idol . . . the feedback that they give is very good,” Seacrest concluded.

Carey’s husband, Nick Cannon, had a slightly different take, telling NBC celebrity suck-up show “Access Hollywood” Wednesday that Minaj is wrecking “Idol.”

“It’s taking away from the quality of what ‘Idol’ is all about,” Cannon, host of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” said of Minaj’s presence on the show.

“This is about people accomplishing their dreams — experts guiding these young people. . . . That’s why America loves these shows,” he continued.

“To make it about something it’s not kind of shows that the producers, and the network, are losing their foot[ing] a little bit.”

By  |  06:42 PM ET, 10/03/2012

 
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