New 'American Idol' judges J-Lo and Steven Tyler upstaged by the show's new mentor, Jimmy Iovine

By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, September 23, 2010; C06

"American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest finally unveiled the show's new judges -- aged rocker squirt Steven Tyler, and pop star/former Fox "In Living Color" Fly Girl dancer Jennifer Lopez -- to a crowd of "Idol" auditioners (and reporters) Wednesday morning in Los Angeles.

This came as a surprise to no one, given that their names had been the only ones left on the shortlist for weeks and weeks, as it shortened and shortened.

A f'realsers surprise was someone else you're going to see often on the show when it enters its 10th season in January. This new arrival is hellbent on knocking the cobwebs out of this semi-stale franchise -- and he is someone Seabiscuit did not trot out during Wednesday's Judge Unveiling Lollapalooza at the Forum.

That person is Interscope Geffen A&M Records Chairman Jimmy Iovine, who has been named the show's permanent in-house mentor.

As part of "Idol's" deal with Universal Music Group, Interscope Geffen A&M will market, promote and distribute albums globally, when Idolette finalists and winners prove worthy of a broad array of retail and new media platforms.

It was Iovine who seemed very much in charge during a post-unveiling Q&A session, when the Idol-makers revealed that guest mentors are out, themed weeks are out and the show will become much more serious. Expect a laser focus on Iovine as he works closely with each aspiring singer to mold them into a marketable, moneymaking commodity.

So country singers, for instance, will no longer be asked to croak through rock tunes and will instead hippy-hippy-shake each week to show off their God-given talent.

"It's important to develop what they are good at," said "Idol's" returning-from-exile executive producer Nigel Lythgoe.

"I think you're going to see a remarkable difference from week to week -- it's going to be an entire new construct of bringing up artists," Iovine said.

When one reporter said, "It sounds like you're going in a bit more serious direction," Lythgoe responded: "I think it's fair to say that, in moving to Interscope, we looked back at the history [of the show]" and tried to pinpoint which "Idol" winners had actually been successful as money generators for the record label. He named first-season winner Kelly Clarkson and fourth-season winner Carrie Underwood, and then said: "And then you start running out of Idols" -- which is maybe the most scathing analysis of the show ever.

When another reporter wanted the panel to speculate how the show was going to do in the ratings without judge Simon Cowell, Lythgoe snapped, "You obviously haven't met Jimmy Iovine" before going into "you can't replace Simon" autopilot.

Iovine is one of the most influential execs in the music industry, reports The Post's pop music critic Chris Richards, who says Iovine is most famous for co-founding Interscope Records in 1990. The label struck it rich with rappers Dr. Dre and Tupac Shakur, and later branched into the alt-rock world, signing Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson and No Doubt.

Tyler and J-Lo, who thought they were going to have their moment in the sun, seemed somewhat dazed at the turn the news conference took -- especially Tyler, who periodically looked as though he had unhitched his brain to let it rest a spell.

But they did take the occasional question. Like when some reporter asked the Aerosmith frontman how his bandmates had reacted to the news. This question in particular seemed to really set him off.

"At first, they were jealous," he said. "They heard it through the press and not from me."


"But four months ago they were looking for another lead singer," he noted.

"I spent a stint in Betty Ford. They have been judging me every day, and sometimes it hurt, but most times I came out through the wormhole a stronger person," Tyler continued, looking more and more like a tiny volcano getting ready to spread molten lava over the countryside while hundreds flee.

"It's a real journey with those guys. And they would say the same about me. I'm sure they are real happy for me," he said in conclusion.

And J-Lo put on her brightest smile when someone asked about details of her alleged $12 million deal, and wondered if, as reported, it included other projects with Fox beside judging "Idol."

"We're going to be developing film, television and all kinds of stuff," she confirmed.

"We spent a lot of time wondering who would be the Simon Cowell replacement. . . . We ultimately said we shouldn't do that," Fox Entertainment Chairman Peter Rice told the TV Column after the announcement. "When the show launched it was all about the search for the next superstar . . . [We decided], 'Let's bring it back to the music and the kids, and see if we can find superstars again.' "

Before unveiling the new judges, Seabiscuit had trotted out Lone Surviving Judge Randy Jackson, who, we now know, thanks to the print on the super-large screen that was behind him, is: The Veteran In Music And Opinion Anchor of the Panel and Master Communicator.

"What's the deal? What's up? What's up? What's up?" Jackson asked rhetorically.

"Big question: How do you feel about the new" team of judges, Seabiscuit said, asking Randy the tough question.

"Dude, I'm so excited about -- you know, when this started I had no idea . . . I'm calling this season 'The Remix,' baby! You know what? I believe this is going to find the greatest 'American Idol' ever! Yes! Yes! Yes!"

Where'd everyone go?

On Tuesday night in Washington, virtually every guy between the ages of 18 and 34 who was watching ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" and new Michael Imperioli cop drama "Detroit 1-8-7" suddenly vanished into thin air.

At nearly the same time, all of the chicks between the age of 18 and 34 watching "Detroit 187" in Washington also disappeared.

It's like an episode of "FlashForward." Only a really good one. Except the mystery lies in the computers tabulating Nielsen numbers. The tallies show nada, zilch and null set, where there should be thousands of viewers.

What fate befell all those promising young men and women who were watching our ABC affiliate, WJLA, on Tuesday night?

ABC sure as heck wants to know, and is sparing no expense looking into Nielsen's report for the night. That's because those "hash marks" -- the dreaded Nielsen symbol for "no reported viewing" -- are showing up in the age brackets that are the most coveted by advertisers in primetime.

"It doesn't make sense to suddenly have 'hash marks,' " the network statement intoned. "The ratings for the local late night news and for Kimmel appear to be impacted as well. WJLA would like Nielsen to investigate, resolve and re-issue the numbers as soon as possible."

"For the number of male viewers 18 to 34 on a new cop show to be zero is impossible," WJLA general manager Bill Lord told the TV Column, "especially given the fact that we are the number-nine TV market and ["Detroit 1-8-7"] did a 3 rating in the demographic in other markets."

Translation: Nielsen's got some 'splainin' to do.

Charles Kennedy, senior vice president of research for ABC-TV, says he's been in the biz for more than two decades and this is a head-scratcher of epic proportions because he's seeing no consistent flaw but "sporadic holes" in the ratings, extending into Kimmel's late-night show. And, having seen the disturbing trend on Tuesday night in our market, he went back and looked at the numbers from Monday and "I'm looking at a very odd number for [Monday's] 'Castle.' "

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