New Top Producer Named for ‘American Idol’

European TV producer Per Blankens (inset) is taking over "American Idol," which is losing judges Randy Jackson and Nicki Minaj (Photos: Fox, Fremantle)

The company that produces “American Idol” named a new top producer for the show on Monday, just a day after Fox acknowledged that two of the show’s long-time executive producers were leaving.

The new showrunner is Per Blankens, who is already a member of the far-flung “Idol” family as the executive producer of the version that airs in Sweden, according to an announcement on Monday from Fremantle Media, which is one of the companies that produces “Idol” for Fox.

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The press release contained the usual prepared statements from those involved, but offers no hint of what Blankens plans to do as the new boss on “American Idol.”

Blankens, who is praised in the release for his work on the Swedish “Idol,” is quoted as saying, “The ‘Idol’ franchise is a worldwide phenomenon and I’m honored to be a part of the most popular of the franchises, ‘American Idol.’ I can’t wait to get started as auditions for the new season are just a few weeks away.”

To say the least, anyone willing to take over “American Idol” at this point in its history will be stepping into one of the most challenging jobs in network television.

The show — once the highest-rated phenomenon in all of television — had its lowest ratings ever this past season, its 12th. In addition, the show just lost two long-time producers, Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick; and at least three of the show’s four judges will not be returning for season 14 — Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj. And Fox’s long-time head of reality TV, Mike Darnell, left the network after 18 years in charge of all Fox reality shows, including “Idol.”

It all means the new producer will be faced with the daunting challenge of replacing at least three judges (the status of fourth judge Keith Urban remains up in the air) and devising new ways to freshen up the show’s format with the goal of perking up its ratings, all under the supervision of a new reality-TV team at Fox who are just now adapting to the loss of Darnell at the head of their department.

The 14th season of “American Idol” premieres next January, and we expect that between now and then, there will be plenty of rumors — some true, some not — about what the new producer plans to do. Among the ideas in the rumor mill even before his appointment on Monday: The possible return of original “Idol” judges Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul. However, there’s been no further word that would indicate that luring those two back to the show is even remotely possible.

Stay tuned.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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