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Is it a publicity stunt or the sort of bitter animosity that could derail America’s most-watched show? With the arrival of on-set video showing American Idol judges Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey practically at each others’ throats, the show’s fans are mulling that very question and further wondering: Did Fox make a huge mistake with its flagship program by seating two divas at the same table?
To the contrary, a high-ranking Idol insider tells The Hollywood Reporter it’s all for show. “The Mariah-Nicki diva battle is exactly what Fox executives wanted all along,” says the source, who insists the two singers are in on the joke. “No one’s really worried. They know the parts they’re supposed to play.”
But another Idol player paints a grimmer picture that allegedly included action more than words, saying, “Nicki went off and threatened Mariah.”
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“Let me tell you, neither of these girls are shy,” offers Interscope chairman Jimmy Iovine. He would know — not only has the veteran music executive crossed paths with the singers professionally and socially, but as American Idol’s in-house mentor (a role he anticipates continuing on season 12), he has come to understand the ins and outs of television judgeship. “I was very bullish on Mariah,” Iovine tells THR. “She gets songs and the process of producing. She really knows the studio. She has that experience, and let’s remember that most people going on these shows want to be Mariah Carey.”
As for Minaj, says Iovine: “Nicki is coming from a different place and another generation with her own incredibly legitimate opinions — some things that are important to Mariah will not be to Nicki. But if they each bring their truth, you could see an incredible dynamic because they’re both smart as hell.”
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The concerns, it seems, are whether the fireworks can be “managed” and will it make for good TV? Worth noting: On season one of NBC’s The Voice, most of the cast wasn’t talking to fellow coach Christina Aguilera. According to host Carson Daly, who discussed this very topic on his L.A. radio show (97.1 AMP Radio) Wednesday morning, producers eventually intervened and told them to cut it out.
To that end, the well-placed insider says Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe is “well-equipped” to manage the Minaj-Carey relationship (in addition to handling judges Randy Jackson and Keith Urban). Indeed, in the grainy video (which another observer suggests was leaked by the Minaj camp), the British executive producer looks only the slightest bit rattled, and reportedly, he had the good sense to stop the day’s taping following the altercation.
In truth, this episode feels more like a much-needed shot in the arm for the aging series, especially if the show can sustain the public’s interest until it launches again in January 2013. As it is, given the ratings declines for last season’s show and the current iterations of The Voice and X Factor, ad buyers have tempered their expectations for Idol.
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