Nigel Lythgoe: ‘Simon Cowell just wanted people to pick on’

So You Think You Can Dance judge Nigel Lythgoe, has admitted that he often got frustrated working with Simon Cowell on American Idol, because the two had such a different work ethic.

Nigel gave Simon Cowell his first TV break on ITV’s Pop Idol and then his second on American Idol in the states. But he claims that the two have very different ideas of what a talent show should be about.

Lythgoe told The Mirror:

“He wanted real characters he could pick on and I didn’t. I wanted the best talent that we could have.

“I think some years you could put the crazies in there and have him pick on them and other years you just need pure talent.

“The moment the public start to think, ‘Hold on a minute they’re just there for Simon to pick on’, you lose the integrity of the show. I believe in trying to keep the integrity.

“We had disagreements, but even when we disagreed we would go out for a drink or dinner together to discuss it.”

Nigel also despaired of Cowell’s time keeping and said that it is irritating when one man becomes bigger than his TV show.

He said:

“What irks me is that the minute you have that power and that kind of leverage, it can affect a programme, because you don’t have to be there at 10 in morning, when the rest of the team are there, and you can wander in when you like, that annoys me.

He added: “Simon doesn’t turn up on set on time because he doesn’t wake up on time or he’s too busy doing his press-ups. He would really apologise, he would come in and say, ‘Nigel, I can’t do it. These are the facts of life, I can’t do it. I need time to wake up properly.’

“He would always be one or two hours late. After four or five years of it, we knew it wasn’t going to happen, so we’d all tootle around, have a nice lunch, go out, or do something else until he turned up.”

Nigel makes a return to UK TV tonight, as he launches So You Think You Can Dance on BBC alongside Arlene Phillips, Cat Deeley and Louise Redknapp.

Lisa McGarry

Lisa has been watching reality TV for too long now. She won't do any housework unless 'Big Brother' announces it over the tannoy and everything she does has to be put to a public vote!