J-Lo out, Mariah Carey in at ‘Idol’


Singer Mariah Carey arrives at the 82nd Academy Awards in Hollywood in this March 7, 2010, file photo. Carey will join Fox television's "American Idol" singing competition as a new judge next season. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)
July 23, 2012

It’s official: Mariah Carey is in, after Jennifer Lopez became out, as chick judge on “American Idol,” Fox programming chief Kevin Reilly officially announced Monday at Summer TV Press Tour 2012.

Going for high drama, Reilly kicked off his Q&A session by dialing some phone number on his cellphone while blah, blah, blah-ing about the “artist that many of these [‘Idol’] contestants have tried to emulate, have tried some of the songs, have tried to hit the notes” — and whom the network had just signed in the past few hours.

“It would be funny if I got the [answering] machine, wouldn’t it?” Reilly said as he fumbled around trying to make the call — and as reporters waited to see whether this was some lame gag.

“Hi, Mariah? How are you? It’s Kevin,” he said. “We do have the deal, don’t we?”

“Yes,” Carey shouted into the phone, which could only be heard by TV critics in the front rows of the Beverly Hilton hotel ballroom.

“I am so excited to be joining ‘Idol,’ Carey told all 200-plus TV critics attending the tour, via Reilly’s cellphone, after he put her on speaker phone and held his phone up to the microphone attached to his shirt front. Very Band-Aid and chewing gum.

Carey said she wished that she could have been with them, but “this kind of all just happened really quickly” — although it had been reported for the past couple of weeks that she was in negotiations to replace J-Lo for a reported salary of nearly $18 million a year.

Carey, Reilly gloated, is “the biggest recording artist that any of these shows has ever had.” (In its announcement, Fox noted that Carey has sold more than 200 million records worldwide, has more No. 1 songs than any solo artist in history and has 18 Billboard No. 1 singles (17 of which Carey wrote), behind only the Beatles.)

Carey, in effect, replaces J-Lo.

“I heard Nigel say that 99 percent thing” regarding J-Lo, Reilly said of “Idol” executive producer Nigel Lythgoe — who, just moments earlier at the tour, said that J-Lo was “99 percent” certain she was leaving the singing competition.

“I think I can say it’s 100 percent Jennifer won’t be back to the show,” Reilly grinned.

Bye-bye, J-Lo!

“I can’t confirm and don’t want to talk about anyone” else on the show, Reilly said on stage, anticipating questions about third judge Randy Jackson, or a replacement for departing judge Steven Tyler.

On the other hand, Reilly did say that Jackson, the show’s only surviving original judge, “has been working with Mariah, and is in fact her co-manager and . . . was very instrumental in doing this deal.”

Translation: Randy’s safe.

Nice work, Randy!

After the most recent season of “Idol” wrapped in May — with its least-watched season finale ever — various Fox and parent-company suits said they had been too complacent about the important franchise and that major changes were in store.

Despite the decline in ratings, “Idol” wound up the season as the country’s most watched show after NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

Since then, Tyler announced that he’s “decided it’s time for me to let go of my mistress ‘American Idol’ before she boils my rabbit,” and J-Lo did, too — or words to that effect — no matter what Lythgoe tells you.

Being one of the music industry’s best-selling pop stars, Carey will give “Idol” an edge in the increasingly crowded singing-competition arena, Reilly boasted.

He’s talking about Fox’s other singing show, “X Factor,” which recently signed popsters Britney Spears and Demi Lovato as judges, and NBC’s “The Voice,” which boasts Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine and Cee Lo Green as judges.

“Not being the only game in town now, we need to keep things fresh,” said Reilly, noting that “Idol” will get another star to replace Tyler.

Speaking of “X Factor,” its creator of course had something to say about “Idol’s” announcement.

“I think she’s going to find it difficult to say ‘no.’ You’ve got to say ‘no’ to people [on these shows] and she’s sweet,” “X Factor’s” Simon Cowell (the former “American Idol” judge) said of new “Idol” judge Carey during his Fox singing competition’s Q&A session Monday afternoon.

Then Cowell must have remembered that Carey’s husband, Nick Cannon, is host of his “America’s Got Talent” show on NBC, because he corrected himself and said: “No — I think she’ll be great.” Cowell added: “I was with her this week, so I knew it was going to happen.”

Because, of course, it’s all about Simon.

As for replacing Tyler, Reilly bragged: “We have the biggest names in the business.”

Earlier in the day, Lythgoe told TV critics, “I can’t make any comment with regard to my future on ‘American Idol’,” explaining that he’s currently in contract negotiations.

Lythgoe — on stage to talk about Fox’s dance competition “So You Think You Can Dance,” on which he’s one of the judges — said that he was “really upset to hear of Steven [Tyler] leaving us, and the possibility of Jennifer [Lopez] leaving us.”

On the other hand, he also said that he thought “Idol” should have new judges every season.

Lythgoe also insisted that J-Lo was only “99 percent” out on the show. “She did say 99 percent — that’s a strange thing to say, 99 percent,” Lythgoe said. “You’re either leaving, or not. I’m hoping that 1  percent means she’s not leaving.”

Lythgoe had been quoted the other day saying that the show was talking to Charlie Sheen and Jerry Lewis.

During his “So You Think You Can Dance” Q&A session, Lythgoe explained there were “thousands” of names being rumored as possible “Idol” judge replacements. “I tried,” he said, “to deflate everything by saying the Three Stooges.”

Spotlight: Britney

Carey’s announcement might have been the big “news” of Fox’s day at Summer TV Press Tour 2012, but Britney Spears was the star.

Appearing via satellite with her fellow “X Factor” judges, Brit looked slightly confused and very unengaged, as if she were having an out-of-body promotional experience.

Asked why she decided to sign on to become a judge on this Fox singing competition show, she responded that it was because she’d seen the show “a couple of times” — and was “such a fan” of the show.

Plus, her makeup artist also was Simon’s makeup artist on the show, she said. So it all made sense, she continued, and besides, she “adores” Simon and “it was something I really wanted to do.”

One critic wondered what side of her we will see on the show. Brit replied: “I think this show has been really good for me to do because I’ve been able to help this talent come in and achieve their dreams. I started out at such a young age, and what you go through in achieving your dream, so being able to do this is a great experience for me.”

Another wondered what kind of music she likes and does not like. Brit said she’s a huge fan of hip-hop, loves rap, likes “cabaret music,” loves “live music” and loves “bands.”

Asked what this show is going to do for her career, Brit said: “Well, I’ve done eight tours, and I’ve been in the music industry for a while and feel like being able to be on a show where you can give back and help people achieve their dream . . . is different from anything I’ve ever done.”

When one critic asked specifically whether she thinks it will help her album sales, she responded: “Um, that’s not my intention. It’s purely just on the fact that I love the show.”

To read earlier TV Columns, go to washingtonpost.com/entertainment

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