Tales From the Top

Michael Becker/Fox/Picture Group

The brain trust behind the show's triumphant return reveal their innermost "American Idol" secrets.

Nigel Lythgoe
Executive producer
The Britain-born CEO of Big Red 2 Entertainment also co-created Fox's So You Think You Can Dance and CMT's Next Superstar and has a game show, Secret Fortune, in development at CBS.

  • My Idol Seat "Don't sit, ever."
  • Idol Contestant Who Deserved a Second Chance Carly Smithson, Season 7
  • Favorite Idol Moment When Clay Aiken turned up for a surprise duet with Michael Sandecki, an Aiken impersonator, during Idol's 5th season.
  • If I Appeared on Idol, I'd Sing ... "If Drinking Don't Kill Me (Her Memory Will)"
  • Show I Wish Was Mine Dancing With the Stars

Ken Warwick
Executive producer
FremantleMedia's executive producer on worldwide production of the Idol formats, Warwick also serves as an exec vp of NBC's reality hit America's Got Talent. His credits include Britain's Gladiators and Don't Try This at Home. When Warwick isn't on set, he and childhood pal Lythgoe tend to their own Villa San Juliette winery in Paso Robles, Calif.

  • Idol Contestant Who Deserved a Second Chance Katharine McPhee, Season 5. "She's an underrated talent." 
  • Favorite Idol Moment Kara DioGuardi surprising Bikini Girl during the Season 8 finale.
  • Show I Wish Was Mine Top Gear

Cecile Frot-Coutaz
CEO, FremantleMedia N.A.
With a stable of successful game and talent shows -- among them  America's Got Talent, The Price Is Right and Family Feud -- the France-born executive has upped Fremantle's American cachet since joining the company in 1995.

  • My Idol Seat Control room
  • Favorite Idol Moment Kelly Clarkson singing Aretha Franklin's "Respect." I remember thinking during rehearsal, "Oh my God, this girl is really good!"
  • Idol Contestant Who Deserved a Second Chance Adam Lambert, Season 8
  • f I Appeared on Idol, I'd Sing ... "House of the Rising Sun"
  • Show I Wish Was Mine Mad Men

Mike Darnell
President of alternative, Fox
Darnell oversees the network's unscripted series as well as its original movies and specials. Among his credits: Hell's Kitchen, So You Think You Can Dance and Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? He joined the net in 1994.

  • My Idol Seat Between the booth and standing on the side of the stage with Nigel.
  • Favorite Idol Moment Watching Kelly Clarkson win. I was in the "truck," and at the moment she was crowned, I could feel that we had a phenomenon in the show.
  • f I Appeared on Idol, I'd Sing ... "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"
  • Show I Wish Was Mine America's Got Talent