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Did Jennifer Lopez tell the American Idol audience on Wednesday night that she was only committed to the show for two years? It certainly sounded that way during the taping of a farewell and good luck message for executive producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz, who was recently upped to CEO of FremantleMedia, a position that requires her to move to London. “You’ve been here 11 years, I’ve been here two,” said Lopez during the post-tape minutes after the credits rolled. “Short and sweet,” added fellow judge Steven Tyler while Lopez nodded in agreement.
Now, we could be reading into things, as many millions have been doing during the past two days when the Internet exploded with reports that J.Lo is possibly leaving Idol. E! says it’s a sure thing, citing sources, while Lopez herself has raised doubt when asked both on the red carpet at the What to Expect When You’re Expecting premiere and The Ellen Degeneres Show, where she said: “I don’t know if I can go for a third year. I miss doing other things.”
This, of course, is a near repeat of her position when season 1 wrapped and she told a British radio program that she was “on the fence” about year two. The result: a nice pay bump bringing her salary to the vicinity of $20 million. Keep in mind: That’s $15 million short of what Simon Cowell was being paid by the time he reached season 9, but ratings were much better then. In fact, Lopez’s and Tyler’s arrival has yielded a ratings drop of 25 percent in season 11 from the year prior, leaving many to believe that the curiosity factor of those early weeks in 2011 had long ago faded.
As for Lopez, she’s reaped the rewards of the high-profile gig in a manner that’s almost masterful. Her movie career is red-hot (what to expect: more topline roles with big pay days), she has endorsements out the ying yang (Kohl’s, Fiat — even a minor controversy where La Lopez fakes walking down a New York City street hasn’t hurt her product pushing power), hit singles (“On the Floor,” “Dance With Me,” the latter currently No. 1 on the dance charts and just certified gold) and a major tour soon to kick off with Enrique Iglesias. What does Idol offer at this point other than a major commitment of her very valuable time?
And there’s the question of what she offers to contestants as many viewers take issue with judges’ comments that either over praise and are simply too saccharine too much of the time. Executive producer Nigel Lythgoe insists that’s not necessarily the case. “Some people say, ‘[the judges] are just so nice,’ well if you actually listen to what is being said they’re not always nice,” Lythgoe told The Hollywood Reporter in April. “Jennifer might say, ‘I’m worried that you’re doing this,’ or ‘put a little more heart into it…’ And I much prefer that they are nice, because these are the best kids that we have. We searched the country for them. Jennifer and Steven are artists so they’re always going to be exceptionally considerate because they don’t want to chop the legs from underneath these kids. They’re not going to make any money from them.” (On Wednesday Lythgoe told TMZ, “We really, really want her back.”)
It’s a sentiment shared by Idol’s associate musical director Michael Orland. “Her experience as an incredible performer on stage only lends herself to doing this job,” he tells THR. “I have enjoyed watching these three judges together — Jennifer is full of enthusiasm and positive feedback, always trying to encourage and find the good in somebody. I think you get a better Idol performance (as witnessed in seasons 10 and 11) when the contestants aren’t fearing harsh criticism before they walk out or even start singing, like in seasons past. Plus: she’s one of the most beautiful women on television.”
No argument there but is that beauty worth a Cowell-sized salary? And would Lopez take it in place of other offers? No doubt both sides of the negotiating table will be monitoring public opinion closely.
What do you think Idol Worshipers? Should the show fight to keep this configuration or is it time to change things up completely?
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