American Idol Tinkers with Season 7 Formula

12/14/2007 at 12:00 AM EST

American Idol Tinkers with Season 7 Formula




Only 33 days to go 'til the return of American Idol!

With the countdown underway until the premiere of the FOX reality juggernaut (Jan 15-16, 8 p.m. ET), Idol's executive producer Nigel Lythgoe says there are some changes in store for season 7.



FOCUS ON THE CONTESTANTSLast season, Idol wrangled marquee names like J. Lo and Gwen Stefani to add star wattage to the show. Lythgoe, who admits "we got carried away with the mentors," says the focus will shift to the contestants this season. "We will spend more time talking to the kids about their lives, what they want from this competition." This doesn’t mean there won’t be any big-name guest appearances, though. Two guest stars have committed to the show, but Lythgoe isn’t revealing names. But don’t hold your breath for an appearance from Britney Spears. Lythgoe says he would have had the beleaguered pop star on last year when it looked like she could have made a comeback.

BIGGER SONG SELECTIONAnother change? Lythgoe says viewers can expect a larger selection of songs for the contestants. “You figure out if you give them a genre like the '60s, then hopefully there's enough songs there that they can choose and bring up to date,” he says.

THE RETURN OF IDOL GIVES BACKWith the success of last season's inaugural "Idol Gives Back" (raising over $75 million for charities in the U.S. and Africa), which was tacked on as part of an extended results show, season 7 will dedicate a separate show to the fund-raising effort.

While Idol will still largely stick with its winning formula, Lythgoe has no illusions that the show will go on forever. "I'm not that stupid," he says. "I do think that it will dip in the ratings. That's for other to worry about. I just worry about making the best show I can make while I'm employed by that show." –Alondra Hernandez

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