‘Idol’ Had Secret Plot to Replace Mariah with J-Lo Midseason?

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Sources told THR that Fox reality chief Mike Darnell and Fremantle’s Cecile Frot-Coutaz have been especially concerned about the “Idol” ratings trajectory, and they hoped that a surprise shake-up on the judges’ panel would help. Carey, a multiplatinum and Grammy-winning singer, is perhaps “Idol’s” most pedigreed judge ever. But despite her eight-figure salary, she has seemed passive and disengaged in her comments on the show, failing to generate the kind of fan following that Lopez had when she judged.

By contrast, Minaj has turned into “Idol’s” sharp-tongued firebrand, but internal Fox research is said to show that Minaj is not a hit with some of the show’s audience. “The core viewer is a midwestern, Southern, older woman who is threatened by Nicki’s aggressiveness,” says one knowledgeable source.

Producers are said to have pushed for the pairing of Carey and Minaj, thinking it would provide for a panel of diverse opinions and make for good TV if they were in conflict. But “Idol” insiders fear the dynamic has turned off some loyal fans.

Since producers backed off their plan to shake up the show mid-season, attention is said to have already turned to next season. A source who has been approached as a possible judge replacement tells THR that “Idol” producers are looking for “not necessarily a star” to join the show. That might include a music professional with strong credentials.

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