BEVERLY HILLS, CA–American Idol will be back next season.
And that’s about all we got out of Fox chairman Peter Rice (right), who faced critics here at press tour with all the British reserve he could muster.
Rice shared the stage with programming president Kevin Reilly. There was blood in the tank after a week of rumour and wild speculation following the announcement last week that Ellen DeGeneres was leaving TV’s No. 1 show, American Idol. Reports quickly surfaced that Elton John, Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and perhaps even Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (okay, my rumour) had signed deals to replace both DeGeneres and Simon Cowell, who announced last year he was departing the series.

Rice began the executive session by stating up front that he had met with DeGeneres in June and talks began then about finding a replacement. As for who will replace her, the only thing he was prepared to say is that “no one has signed a deal on either side of the camera, to join American Idol who wasn’t on it last year.” He described some of the rumours from the last week as “wildly inaccurate.” Presumably he means the Tyler rumour, unless Fox plans to change the name of the show to Cadaver Idol in hopes of scaring kids (and advertisers) out of the music business.
As for Kara Dioguardi’s fate, Rice would not confirm that she is already off the show. Is Nigel Lythgoe back as an executive producer? Not at liberty to say, said Rice. The dapper Brit would not even confirm that Randy Jackson and host Ryan Seacrest–who have multi-year, multi-million-dollar deals–would both be back.

Rice and Reilly: smiling through the Idol speculation

The only thing he would confirm is that all the judges would have to be in place by the time on-camera auditions begin in mid-September.
Reilly, on the other hand, let it rip on the topic of his friend Stephen McPherson. The departed ABC boss famously had Reilly’s back when the latter was rushed out of his NBC post a few years back. Reilly returned the favour Monday by going much further than the other network programming chiefs have gone on this subject at press tour. He described McPherson as a “loyal and good friend” who had the “courage of his convictions” when it came to programming. The McPherson fallout has been “upsetting,” says Reilly, and if the former ABC boss chooses to get into the production end of the business, “the door will be open to him at Fox.”

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