TCA: ‘Idol’ Offers No Regrets Over Last Season

“Obviously with Simon leaving, that’s given us a new direction that we’re almost forced into, but that allows us to be creatve and shake the whole thing up”

Last Updated: August 5, 2011 @ 3:18 PM

The folks at "American Idol" aren't apologizing for anything.

The major overhaul of the iconic show, which returns to Fox on Jan. 19, isn't an acknowledgement that something went wrong last season, but is rather part of the natural evolution of a 10-year-old show, executive producer Nigel Lythgoe said Tuesday.

"Obviously with Simon leaving, that's given us a new direction that we're almost forced into, but that allows us to be creatve and shake the whole thing up," Lythgoe said at a panel before the Television Critics Association.

It included all the key players on the show, including new judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez.

Lythgoe finds himself in the interesting position lately of promising the show's best days aren't behind it — after all, if it had debuted 10 years ago with Lopez and Tyler, their names would have given it far more instant buzz.

"People forget that nobody knew Simon Cowell when he came here," he told TheWrap.com. "No one really knew Randy, and they said that Paula was past it. So it is how you come together and what you present as a panel, much more than individuals."

Among the changes since the show's debut, he said, is the increased popularity of texting and text voting. "That whole scene of the interactivity has changed a great deal, and we need to change with it," he said.

The show also will allow contestants to sing their own songs this season. TheWrap suggested in a story Monday that it require them to do exactly that. (Though they didn't take our suggestion that Kanye West get veto power over the winner.) Executive producer Ken Warwick said the show has been "pleasantly surprised" by the quality of the original songs in at least two cases.

Tyler also said he believes the show, which has often rewarded safe, middle-of-the-road contestants in the past, has the potential to disover artists as gritty as early Aerosmith.

"I think what 'Idol' is all about now is taking it up a notch," he said. "We're looking for something… that's different."

Tyler and Lopez also said they both plan to continue their main gigs. Though his bandmates gave him some grief about joining the show, Aerosmith remains together, he said, and has a new album and tour planned.

"We're still rocking big time," he said.