Despite recent reports that American Idol
judge Paula Abdul
(currently in contract negotiations) could possibly leave the show
, producer Ken Warwick says that’s not how he sees it.
“America loves Paula. She’s an integral part of this program,” Warwick told reporters on a conference call about Idol
’s upcoming eighth season Monday afternoon. “Never have I been faced with anyone saying Paula’s got to go. She’s one of the foundation blocks of this series. She keeps Simon well in control.”
Warwick spoke at length about Abdul, whom many have speculated would be squeezed out of the show when music industry heavyweight Kara DioGuardi
was hired as a fourth judge last summer.
(in England) was always four judges,” Warwick says, noting that DioGuardi is “young, talented, opinionated” and, he jokes, “can gang up on Simon with Paula.”
Last week, Abdul accused
producers of not listening to her pleas to keep season five auditioner Paula Goodspeed off the show because she was a known stalker of Abdul’s.
“I was in the room there and I can absolutely put my hand on my heart and say I didn’t know,” Warwick says. “I didn’t even know that this person was a risk or termed as a stalker. I knew she was a fan, an ardent fan. But that’s the only thing that came in front of me.
“I would definitely not put a dangerous person or a person remotely dangerous in front of the judges. You wouldn’t take that risk.” Warwick concedes that Abdul “may have mentioned it to a security man or another junior producer.” But, he continues, “if the inference is that I would put someone in there because it would make good television… she certainly didn’t mention it to me. She certainly didn’t mention it to anybody with clout.”
’s new season kicks off January 13 on Fox and Warwick says some changes include:
•The return of the wild card contestants, where those who may have been given an unjust early exit will get a second chance by the judges to prove what they can do.
•Idol Gives Back, which raised over $64 million last season, will officially not return in 2009 because “the weight of making a huge charity show” on top of the regularly scheduled two weekly shows “stretched our team like there’s no tomorrow.” Tentatively, Idol Gives Back will return in 2010.
• More behind-the-scenes, on-camera interaction among the contestants in their daily lives each week. --Monica Rizzo