If producer Nigel Lythgoe is worried that deafening diva judge Mary Murphy’s departure will do to “So You Can Think You Can Dance” what Paula Abdul’s departure did to “American Idol,” he isn’t admitting it.
“I’ve never looked on this show as being about the judges and, unfortunately, I never looked at ‘American Idol’ about it being the judges when I produced it. Suddenly after two years we’re talking about judges and for me that is exactly what we shouldn’t be doing,” he told TheWrap.
“I’m not worried if Mary’s there, if Mia’s there, if Adam’s there or if I’m there — as long as the best 10 dancers are there.”
Lythgoe was caught by TheWrap at a publicity shoot Tuesday for the show’s seventh season, featuring the judges and the new “All-Stars” – 10 alumni who will partner with the 10 finalists, a new wrinkle in the competition.
The feeling of camaraderie was thick in the air – though certainly the fact that they were surrounded by the press kept everyone seeming genuinely happy to be around each other and excited for the new season, which begins May 27 on Fox.
There was even an All-Star huddle led by producer, Jeff Thacker which ended in the dancers erupting in a chant of “1-2-3-4, 2-2-3-4, 3-2-3-4, 4-2-3-4! Wooo!”
And between promo takes of them walking in slo-mo towards the camera, the All-Stars pirouetted and laughed as songs like “Canned Heat” by Jamiroquai played. (“Dance! Got canned heat in my heels tonight!”)
“This is a bit like a party!” said host Cat Deeley in her sing-songy Brummie accent. “All I need is a margarita, and I’d hang around all day!”
Looking like a retouched photograph in her one-shouldered black sequined dress, Deeley showed off purple beaded earrings from her new jewelry line, Cat Deeley Vintage for QVC.
Deeley also gave assurances that without Murphy, the season wouldn’t be void of kookiness. “We’ve got Nigel, Adam and Mia. Crazy, Crazy, Crazy. They’re all slightly bonkers.”
Plus, she said, the conductor of the Hot Tamale Train will return later in the season as a guest judge – and will even be choreographing a few numbers.
As he watched Deeley pose and preen for her publicity stills, new perma-judge Adam Shankman — hobbled around set on a pair of crutches due to a torn ACL — quipped, “I’m learning so much!”
As was announced Monday, Oscar producer/”Hairspray” director Shankman and Emmy-winning choreographer Mia Michaels will take permanent seats at the judges’ table.
And there are other changes in store.
Instead of starting off the live shows with 20 contestants, this season will feature only 10 finalists — five guys and five girls. And where in seasons past, contestants have been paired randomly with one another, this year they will each be assigned an All-Star partner.
Kind of like “The Real World/Road Rules Challenge” without the binge drinking.
“Instead of picking their dance genre out of a hat, they’ll pick a photograph of a dancer out of a hat and that’ll dictate the genre,” Lythgoe told TheWrap. “So if you pick tWitch out of a hat, you know you’re not doing the Viennese Waltz.”
tWitch, you should know is former contestant Stephen Boss; other All-Stars are Courtney Galiano and Neil Haskell (seen in video above), Comfort Fedoke, Anya Garnis, Lauren Gottlieb, Allison Holker, Mark Kanemura, Pasha Kovalev, Kathryn McCormick, Ade Obayomi and Dominic “D-trix” Sandoval.
So why fix something if it ain’t broken?
“Who said it’s not broken?” Lythgoe said. “I think it needed re-energizing … I don’t believe in sitting back on your laurels and thinking everything’s gonna be fine.”