English TV/film director/producer Nigel Lythgoe returned as an executive producer of "American Idol" for its 10th season after bowing out from the previous three, studiously avoiding the awkward "Idol" era of miscast judges and the steep decline of winners' music sales. Last year "Idol" posted its highest ratings since season seven-29.3 million people watched the finale, according to Nielsen. "This is a different time in society than when 'American Idol' began," Lythgoe told Billboard early in the 10th season, just a few weeks after Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez had taken their seats at the judges table. "We need warmth. The true mark of success [for a show] is in judging the [atmosphere] in society. Now is the time to have that warmth-along with the eccentricity of a rock star." Lythgoe, a former dancer/choreographer who turned to producing "So You Think You Can Dance" between "Idol" gigs, said the biggest change he made during his return season was to allow singers to work in their comfort zones while not forcing them to sing in styles that might make them look bad. He also brought back eight former contestants to perform on results shows.
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