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'Idol': Producer responds to Paula's claims, previews new season

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American Idol executive producer Ken Warwick tells EW.com he had “no idea whatsoever” that Paula Abdul fan Paula Goodspeed had been a long-time stalker of Abdul’s when she auditioned for the fifth season of the Fox show in 2005. Goodspeed’s body was discovered earlier this year in her car near Abdul’s home, an apparent suicide. Last week, while appearing on on ABC’s The View and Barbara Walters’ Sirius radio show, Abdul accused Idol producers of allowing Goodspeed to audition even after Abdul told them the woman had an unhealthy history with her “I said, ‘This girl is a stalker of mine,'” Abdul told Walters on the radio. “‘Please do not let her in.’ Everyone knew. I was shaking.”

“The whole event is terrible, obviously,” responds Warwick. “[Paula] might have told someone [about Goodspeed]. I don’t know who it was. She certainly

didn’t tell me at the time. I had no idea, and I was in the

room. Normally, she would have told the security there. They’re the people who would handle it.” Warwick does acknowledge he knew Goodspeed was “a fan” of Abdul’s. “It was written on the notes.” But he hastens to add, “if we think anybody is even on the cusp of being violent in any way, they don’t even get into the room. I would never contaminate the credibility of the show by putting someone dangerous or someone who would hurt themselves in that room. I just wouldn’t do it. It’s not worth it.”

This back-and-forth comes as Idol ramps up for its upcoming eighth season (premiering January 13). After the jump, Warwick previews alterations to the semifinal stage of the competition — get ready for the Top 36! — among other significant changes:

addCredit(“Michael Becker/Fox”)

Why a new judge? To make Simon unhappy
Songwriter and record producer Kara DioGuardi will join the show

this season as its first permanent fourth judge. Warwick says that

beyond the need to shake up the Idol format in its eighth

season lest it get staid, he also wanted a fourth judge to keep Simon

from “always getting his own way.” In a tie, Simon gets the deciding

vote, but Warwick says the net effect of DioGuardi’s presence on the

panel was more contestants Simon didn’t like going on to Hollywood

week: “Sometimes, a kid who normally would have gone [home] comes to

Hollywood, and they’re fabulous.”

Hollywood week will actually be in Hollywood
In seasons past, “Hollywood week” really took place in the southern

California city of Pasadena. This year, says Warwick, the show held the

Hollywood stage of the auditions in Hollywood’s Kodak Theater, home of

the Academy Awards and almost every American Idol finale.

Warwick says the bigger backdrop brought out extra nerves in some of

the auditioners, and extra nerve in others: “If they were good, their

passion to get through was more intense than it had been in previous

years.” In fact, Hollywood week was so good this year, it will air over

two weeks.

Auditions: Kentucky good; Puerto Rico, not so much
Warwick reports that the standout cities this year were Phoenix,

Ariz. and Louisville, Ken. — in fact, they shot some of the Louisville

auditions at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. The biggest

disappointment, says Warwick, was probably Puerto Rico. The show went

to the U.S. territory hoping to bring more “Latin flavor” to Idol,

which Warwick admits has often been missing from the show. But, he

says, “We got a couple of good kids, but that was all. It was an awful

long way to go for not a lot of result.” And as always, there will be a

sizable helping of trainwreck auditions.

No Top 24 this season. Prepare for the Top 36!
In an effort to, as Warwick says, “shake things up,” the

semifinalist stage will expand from 24 to 36 contestants, and each

semifinalist will get just one chance to perform before they either

get axed or voted into the top 12. “I’ve got different groups of

kids every week now,” says Warwick. “We are going to let go of more

kids each week.” Much like the first two seasons of Idol, there will also be a wildcard stage where the judges select semi-finalists for the top 12. And

you can forget ’80s night; Warwick’s plan is to have the top 36 sing

from a catalog drawn from the top ten songs on the Billboard Hot 100

chart since the chart began in the 1950s all the way to the present.

We may finally see some mentors under 30
Warwick is definitely aware that the mentors from previous years

have been a bit long in the tooth. “It’s [still] a wish list at the

moment,” he says, “[but] I’m trying to get [mentors] a little younger.

I only like mentors who’ve had a string of hits, who have been there

for a long time and actually have something of value to pass on. Saying

that, there are some kids — and I call them kids, they’re not kids,

they’re 24, 25 — that I’m going after [to be mentors].”

Motown is never, ever going away
Warwick is mum on upcoming theme nights, except for one: “This is

the 50th anniversary of Motown. Motown was so prevalent for so much of

our [audience] demographic that it would be a crime not to do it.

There’s enough stuff there to keep on going forever.”

More American Idol:

American Idol season 8 rumors begin


David Cook Idol flashback at AMAs


Spotlight: David Cook


Q&A with David Cook


Paula Abdul calls out Idol for encouraging stalker


Don’t blame Idol for Goodspeed’s death

EW’s American Idol headquarters

Why a new judge? To make Simon unhappy
Songwriter and record producer Kara DioGuardi will join the showthis season as its first permanent fourth judge. Warwick says thatbeyond the need to shake up the Idol format in its eighthseason lest it get staid, he also wanted a fourth judge to keep Simonfrom “always getting his own way.” In a tie, Simon gets the decidingvote, but Warwick says the net effect of DioGuardi’s presence on thepanel was more contestants Simon didn’t like going on to Hollywoodweek: “Sometimes, a kid who normally would have gone [home] comes toHollywood, and they’re fabulous.”

Hollywood week will actually be in Hollywood
In seasons past, “Hollywood week” really took place in the southernCalifornia city of Pasadena. This year, says Warwick, the show held theHollywood stage of the auditions in Hollywood’s Kodak Theater, home ofthe Academy Awards and almost every American Idol finale.Warwick says the bigger backdrop brought out extra nerves in some ofthe auditioners, and extra nerve in others: “If they were good, theirpassion to get through was more intense than it had been in previousyears.” In fact, Hollywood week was so good this year, it will air overtwo weeks.

Auditions: Kentucky good; Puerto Rico, not so much
Warwick reports that the standout cities this year were Phoenix,Ariz. and Louisville, Ken. — in fact, they shot some of the Louisvilleauditions at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. The biggestdisappointment, says Warwick, was probably Puerto Rico. The show wentto the U.S. territory hoping to bring more “Latin flavor” to Idol,which Warwick admits has often been missing from the show. But, hesays, “We got a couple of good kids, but that was all. It was an awfullong way to go for not a lot of result.” And as always, there will be asizable helping of trainwreck auditions.

No Top 24 this season. Prepare for the Top 36!
In an effort to, as Warwick says, “shake things up,” thesemifinalist stage will expand from 24 to 36 contestants, and eachsemifinalist will get just one chance to perform before they eitherget axed or voted into the top 12. “I’ve got different groups ofkids every week now,” says Warwick. “We are going to let go of morekids each week.” Much like the first two seasons of Idol, there will also be a wildcard stage where the judges select semi-finalists for the top 12. Andyou can forget ’80s night; Warwick’s plan is to have the top 36 singfrom a catalog drawn from the top ten songs on the Billboard Hot 100chart since the chart began in the 1950s all the way to the present.

We may finally see some mentors under 30
Warwick is definitely aware that the mentors from previous yearshave been a bit long in the tooth. “It’s [still] a wish list at themoment,” he says, “[but] I’m trying to get [mentors] a little younger.I only like mentors who’ve had a string of hits, who have been therefor a long time and actually have something of value to pass on. Sayingthat, there are some kids — and I call them kids, they’re not kids,they’re 24, 25 — that I’m going after [to be mentors].”

Motown is never, ever going away
Warwick is mum on upcoming theme nights, except for one: “This isthe 50th anniversary of Motown. Motown was so prevalent for so much ofour [audience] demographic that it would be a crime not to do it.There’s enough stuff there to keep on going forever.”

More American Idol:
American Idol season 8 rumors begin
David Cook Idol flashback at AMAs
Spotlight: David Cook
Q&A with David Cook
Paula Abdul calls out Idol for encouraging stalker
Don’t blame Idol for Goodspeed’s death
EW’s American Idol headquarters

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