“American Idol” Experiencing A Tempest In A Coke Cup?

The last season of American Idol closed out with the usual pomp and confetti, sure, but it also came with promises of changes; because ratings all season were lower than pretty much ever, Fox told television beat writers that certain aspects of the show would be different for season eight. Change No. 1 was allowing more people who made it through to last season’s Hollywood Week to re-audition than in previous seasons. And now, it looks like another big shake-up has come to pass: Executive producer Nigel Lythgoe is leaving the show in order to focus on So You Think You Can Dance. Lythgoe, who has been with the Idol stable since its days as a much more rinky-dink UK production, will embark on a new partnership with Idol creator Simon Fuller. (Perhaps it’s finally time for America’s Next Baby That’s Most Likely To Burp On Cue!) Meanwhile, the audition phase for next season has begun, and apparently taking the whole party down to Puerto Rico wasn’t exactly the best idea.

A story on AP’s Spanish-language wire about union protests of the San Juan auditions had a quote from a union organizer that referred to low audition turnout, which Idolator researcher/Spanish correspondent Kate Richardson was kind enough to roughly translate for me:

“The protest was successful because we achieved carrying a message of the anti-worker practices of this production and giving support to the Writers Guild of America” said Jose Rodriguez Baez, president of the federation of workers.

“Furthermore, the auditions were a failure because there were no more than 300 people in the line. Local talent did not support the activity in this occasion. The preparations that they had to receive thousands of people remained in that.”

So, did the San Juan auditions really have fewer attendees than a Katharine McPhee concert? Is it a sign that more people don’t think that winning Idol is all that? Is there a groundswell of union support in the commonwealth? Or do people just want to be famous on their own turf? One comment on the USA Today blog Idol Chatter noted that Puerto Rico has its own Idol equivalent, Objetiva Fama. Whatever the reason, I can’t wait to see how the producers get “creative” with editing this this one.

Nigel Lythgoe leaving “American Idol” [Hollywood Reporter via rickey.org]Protestas en audiciones de American Idol [El Nuevo Dia via Idol Chatter]