All those theories about how teenage girls are controlling the “American Idol” voting this year, resulting in a field that includes only two female contestants among its seven finalists?
Ken Warwick, the show’s British executive producer and a longtime Simon Cowell pal who helped start the U.S. version 10 years ago, admits the new voting rules, which now includes online social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, has favored the guys, with teenage girls flooding the system.
That became a point of contention when favorite Pia Toscano was eliminated a couple of weeks ago.
“Most reality shows are female-driven, and obviously the guy contestants this year are a strong group” said the BAFTA-award winning Warwick, a veteran of several of them himself, including America’s Got Talent, Pop Idol and the original X Factor. “It’s something we’re going to have a long discussion about how to keep it fair when we finish. But we’re not changing anything radically this year. We’re just going to have to roll with the punches.”
Along with fellow producer Nigel Lythgoe, Warwick has received kudos for resurrecting the show after adding judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, defending them against charges they’re “too nice” and haven’t criticized the contestants nearly enough in the wake of the acerbic Simon Cowell’s departure.
“I know people love disagreements and arguments, but the truth of the matter is these kids are very good,” he said. “I wouldn’t influence the judges to say anything they didn’t honestly believe. Jennifer mentioned last week that she didn’t want to criticize Haley because there were so few girls left, but on the whole, they’ve been sticking to the straight and narrow.”
On the Pia Toscano controversy, Warwick admits, “Anything that makes people talk about the show is good for the show. Like Oscar Wilde said, ‘I don’t care what people say, as long as they’re talking about me.’”
About the new judges, the executive producer admits he took a gamble on Steven Tyler. “It was a leap of faith on both our parts, on his as well as ours. He got a lot of stick from his mates in the band, and he wasn’t sure he was doing the right thing. And neither were we. We knew we couldn’t replace Simon; we had to go a different way. This has absolutely worked spectacularly. It’s mainly because the guy has a heart. He’s the quintessential rock and roller. He’s a little big edgy, which is great. But underneath it all, he’s a lovely man. And the public have hitched into it.”
Warwick also praised the diversity of the contestants. “The kids in America are brilliant. There’s someone out there working in a bank or a pizza parlor who could be a global pop music superstar, but they just don’t know it. And hopefully, we give some of them a chance to show what they’re about and make a few stars. That’s the whole premise of the show.”
On whether the eventual winner can segue into a successful recording career, Warwick says it’s pretty much the luck of the draw. “Who picks them up, where they go, what song they release,” he said. “And while not every ‘Idol’ has become a star, there are lots of “Idols” who have become stars. I’m pretty sure whoever comes out of this series will break. I’m confident the winner will have a future in this business.”