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Nigel Lythgoe

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Are y'all ready for another round of American Idol musical chairs? 

American Idol's ratings are down a whopping 22% this season despite the addition of big name judges, country star Keith Urban, rapper Nicki Minaj, and pop diva Mariah Carey. The ratings-challenged series hit an all time low last week, attracting only 11 million viewers. In comparison, American Idol appealed to roughly 30 million viewers every week in its prime. Panic time!

Needless to say, Fox wants big changes, including all new judges. Again

One judge beat them to the punch. Randy Jackson, the lone original judge, announced yesterday that season twelve will be his last. "Yo! Yo! Yo!" Randy told E!. "To put all of the speculation to the rest, after 12 years of judging on American Idol I have decided it is time to leave after this season."

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Even with dismal ratings, American Idol (please go gently into that good-night…) still remains in the news.  This time, the long-running reality show is facing a potential lawsuit brought by nine former contestants who are claiming that the show and its producers are giant racists.  So, there's that.

I'm going to go out on a limb right now and say that I don't think the show or its practices exude any type of racism.  If I'm wrong Jennifer Hudson is having the best last laugh ever.  Factoring in the voters, the fans, and the singers, it would take a lot to skew the show in the direction of racism.  To me it sounds like a bunch of sour yet talented former contestants who didn't find the fame they'd hoped when getting the boot prior to the finale.  Just fade into obscurity like the rest of them…heck, Taylor Hicks won his season, and who even knows what he's up to these days!  (Apparently, he's headlining his own show in Vegas, but more on that after the jump :) I know, right?)

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When it comes to the upcoming 10th season of American Idol, it seems the judges aren’t the only changes being made.

In a new interview with TV Giude, AI executive producer Nigel Lythgoe reveals that the finalists will now have to face new challenges, you know, other than having to sing live on national television in front of millions of viewers.

Those changes will include contests to make the best music video, to promote themselves, and to work with a band and dancers for an awards show-style performance.

However the biggest change will be the elimination of the top 24 round as the show will now go right to the top 12 finalists. “I didn’t think [the top 24] were very good, I was bored with them by the time they got there,” says Nigel of previous seasons.

What is unclear is how the show and judges will narrow down the contestants to the top 12 especially considering the fact that Nigel reveals more contenders are being sent through to Hollywood this season.  Nigel also promises there will be a wider range of talent including many country, indie and jazz singers.

The new season of American Idol premieres January 12 on Fox. The new judging panel, pictured above, includes Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson.

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