Nicki Minaj is in advanced negotiations to join Mariah Carey at the judges’ table on “American Idol” in January — a move that would be part of a show shake-up promised by a Fox honcho and exec producer Nigel Lythgoe.
“Is Nicki Minaj a star-maker?” the Associated Press wondered Monday afternoon when it joined the multitudes reporting that the hip-hop artist best known “for her colorful hairstyles, wardrobe and antics” — the AP’s music reporter did not list “singing” as being among those things for which she best known — would join the show.
But, of course, serious students of television know that the search for new judges on “Idol” has virtually nothing to do with the candidates’ ability to find star singers and everything to do with their ability to make noise and bag big ratings.
“Idol” finished the 2011-12 TV season as the country’s most popular non-football program — no small feat for a reality series in its 11th season. But it fell noticeably in the ratings last season — the first in which NBC’s “The Voice” and Fox’s own “X Factor” were added to the in-season prime-time mix — and it wound up with its smallest season-finale audience ever.
Of course, it was also the worst “American Idol” finale ever. Past season non-winner Ace Young got down on one knee and proposed to past season non-winner Diana DeGarmo on that finale, while millions of viewers wondered who they were. We rest our case.
After that finale, Fox programming chief Kevin Reilly and Chase Carey, chief operating officer of Fox parent NewsCorp, said changes were in store for the show, which means new judges. The Reporters Who Cover Television, having grown weary trying to cull fact from fiction when covering competition series judge-casting, have since planted their flag in every name out there. Minaj’s name has been on the list — but then, so were Charlie Sheen and Jerry Lewis.
Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez, who had each been with the show only two seasons, announced they were leaving. And conventional wisdom has The Only Surviving Original Judge, Randy Jackson, moving into a “mentoring” role — whatever that means for him and for the show’s Mentor in Residence, Jimmy Iovine. And late last month, Carey confirmed she’d joined the show as a judge.
To make noise and bag bigger ratings in its 12th season, “Idol” will have to out-shout “X Factor,” which hired Britney Spears and Demi Lovato to replace Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger as judges after the show’s first season fizzled in the ratings.
In which case, Minaj is made to order. Last February, Minaj nearly stole the Grammy show from Whitney Houston, less than 24 hours after Houston’s death, when she performed an erotic, made-for-TV exorcism to the strains of her single “Roman Holiday.”
After Houston died while preparing to attend a Grammy pre-party, the trophy show got re-made and riddled with Houston tributes and “moments.” But the next morning, all the talk was of Minaj, who walked the red carpet accompanied by a man dressed to resemble the pope. Minaj performed her single on stage from a torture rack, while dressed in a long, weedy gown and cheap peroxide-blond wig, as guys dressed to look like monks sang “O Come All Ye Faithful.” Another guy dressed as an altar boy knelt in prayer between the legs of a female dancer, and a guy dressed as a bishop presided over the festivities. Minaj broke free of her bonds just in time for her big finish: a levitation.
No word Monday on whether the Minaj news has scared off Nick Jonas. Late last month, he tweeted that he is being considered as a new “Idol” judge, adding: “It would be a dream come true if it happens.”
Michael J. Fox is going back to NBC — the network that made him a household name — for his return to comedy series TV.
Fox will play a husband and father of three from New York who’s dealing with family, career and challenges — including Parkinson’s disease — all loosely drawn from Fox’s real life.
NBC outbid other broadcast networks to land the new show by offering to commit to one full season’s worth of episodes, sight unseen.
Fox, who last appeared as a sitcom regular on ABC’s “Spin City” more than a decade ago, will star in the new comedy. Details about the show are scarce, except that it would be based on his personal family life.
Fox left “Spin City” after revealing publicly that he had received a diagnosis of Parkinson’s; he was replaced by Charlie Sheen on that show.
In theory, the new comedy, which will be produced by Sony Pictures Television and Olive Bridge Entertainment, is a perfect fit for NBC under its new marching orders. Last month, at Summer TV Press Tour, the network’s entertainment division chairman, Bob Greenblatt, told TV critics that although he is appreciative of the “sophisticated” NBC comedies (“30 Rock,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Community,” “The Office,” etc.) he inherited when he joined the network in January 2011, he is determined to broaden the network’s comedy lineup.
But don’t look for Fox’s comedy on NBC’s lineup this coming TV season; the network said in Monday’s announcement that the show would debut in the fall of 2013.
“To bring Michael J. Fox back to NBC is a supreme honor, and we are thrilled that one of the great comedic television stars is coming home again,” Greenblatt said. “From the moment we met with Michael to hear his unique point of view about this new show, we were completely captivated and on board. He is utterly relatable, optimistic and in a class by himself, and I have no doubt that the character he will create — and the vivid family characters surrounding him – will be both instantly recognizable and hilarious. Being in business with him is a supreme pleasure.”
A new Permanent Person Upstaged by Kelly Ripa has been chosen for syndicated talk show “Live with Kelly,” Disney said Monday. Disney added that the new co-host won’t officially be revealed until Sept. 4 — a.k.a. about one week after the name hits the tabloids.
Feel free to spend the next week speculating as to which of the 59 guest hosts who have joined Ripa on the set since Rege threw in the towel last November is getting the gig.
We already know it will not be Seth Meyers, who was the betting fave last month, based on his having signed up for a five-day stint after having already subjected himself to the ordeal in April and May. Meyers shot down the possibility of a long-term gig a few days later, reminding a reporter at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that — hello — he is a big deal on “Saturday Night Live” heading into an election season.
To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/