Executive Producer Ken Warwick talks about everything from Idol Gives Back, to Sanjaya, to what really happened with Simon Cowell's rolling eyes

We recently were lucky enough to sit in on a conference call with American Idol producer Ken Warwick. As one of the top people behind America's biggest television show, Warwick discussed doing the show every week, Simon's "eye rolling" incident, Sanjaya and much, much more.

I was wondering if you could clear up exactly what happened last night. I know there have been a lot of misinterpretations about Simon's eye roll and Chris's name checking the Virginia Tech students. Could you just clear up what we might have mistaken there in editing?

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Ken Warwick: No, it's not edited. It was live, exactly what you saw was live. Simon didn't hear him; it's as easy as that. It's quite difficult when the contestants are talking on their lap mike for Simon to hear them. And he was wound up, because Chris in truth was talking about singing through his nose, which Simon hates with a vengeance. And for Chris to say, "Oh, it's a deliberate way of singing and I did it on purpose," Simon just kind of turned off and was reacting to that.

He didn't hear - I mean if you actually watch it, because we have addressed in the recap tonight, he says it very low. And you've kind of got to strain, even at home you've got to strain to hear it. In the house with all the audience, Simon just didn't hear it. It's as easy as that. He turned around and he was rolling his eyes at the fact that Chris had come back with such an inane - and that was it. And he was mortified afterwards when he went "What? What are you talking?" He actually didn't get it, and he went "Oh, my God, no."

Oh, is that why he said what he said after Blake, to kind of clear the air?

Ken Warwick: I guess so, yes. I think he felt he had to. No one actually said anything to him. I think he just realize - I mean it was planned that he was going to say something anyway. And he's not that good at making statements like this off the cuff, but he does everything off the cuff. So it wasn't the most lucid statement in the world. But it was always planned that Ryan would do it in the cold opening and the judges would say something at the end. That was always planned. But, of course, when Chris said it, Simon didn't get it.

That last commercial break is manic, because we have to come off on the live show as you know on the button. So it's everyone screaming, "Ryan you've got 12 or 15 seconds to give your wind-up, to get to this, to get to that. We're knocking 30 second off that. We'll run the crash credits," as you saw over the end and spiel.

So there's not much time for any production. It was one of those things that kind of hit us afterwards that this is what it could have construed as. But he was mortified. He went, "No," he just didn't hear it. He was still kind of smoldering over Chris' statement about singing. It's as easy as that to be honest.

I was just wondering, a show as big as yours, do you have numbers on why people are watching at any particular week? Like I'm wondering, if Sanjaya gets voted off tonight, are you anticipating a dip in ratings? Do you feel like people are tuning in for the car wreck?

Ken Warwick: To be honest with you, luckily, ... with all due modesty, we're big enough that the ratings don't actually bother us too much at this stage. We know that we're going to be bigger than anybody else. We know we're up on last year. That's not likely to change. So it's not something that agonizes - if they dropped considerably, there would be a reason for us to agonize over them. But the truth of the matter is on a weekly basis, the show is as you know, produced - like tonight's show is being produced now, as we speak, because you've got to make the most of all the drama and everything that happens overnight with who is going and all the rest of it.

So the truth of the matter is, we don't sort of pre-produce it too much. And if we came in and started getting bogged down on what the ratings were last night and why some set of demographics did that and why other demographics did the other, then we'd be chasing ourselves around a tree. So the truth is, we honestly don't pay that much attention to it.

Do the judges frequently have trouble hearing what the contestants say on stage because of the noise of the crowd behind them? Is that a common problem?

Ken Warwick: They always do, Rod. ... whereby all the speakers, of course, the judges have one singing speaker from the singing mike on both sides of them, so that they can hear the voice. ... from their collar that goes back to the house behind them, the judges. Because generally speaking, Ryan comes on and Ryan will address the judges. And he's quite loud and they get him, but they don't often talk that much, other than to Ryan. They don't actually talk back to the judges that much.

Right. But they often miss what the contestants say.

Ken Warwick: They always miss what the contestants say.

Do you tell the contestants that they often can't hear them anyway, so there's no point in talking to them?

Ken Warwick: Yes. They know that. It's just one of those things.

Is there any way to fix that?

Ken Warwick: Not easily, because the audience, although you don't hear it quite that much, are absolutely yelling and whooping and clapping all the way through. So it's a big of a madhouse down there to be truthful. And apart from giving the judges earphones, which we can't do, there's always going to be that problem.

And just as clarification, you said Simon had no idea that he had potentially made an offensive face until after the show was over. Is that correct?

Ken Warwick: Not at all, and he was mortified. He was actually totally linked to Chris' ... an accepted way of singing through your nose.

I caught that immediately. I was wondering why he was rolling his eyes, and I was like, "Oh, that's not going to be good."

Ken Warwick: He was rolling his eyes about the nose thing.

Yes, I knew the connection.

What does it feel like - obviously, you would rather at this point be talking about "Idol Gives Back," that you have to be discussing eye rolling right now.

Ken Warwick: It comes with the turf to be honest, Dan. Anytime a thing that happens any week, I expect to be picked up and scrutinized, so it doesn't bother me too much.

Have you noticed any differences this week in the amount of comments that you guys have had to give regarding this particular-

Ken Warwick: Yes, well, it's obviously the topic of the moment, yes. But it's something that you can only come clean with and say he didn't hear it. It's as easy as that. He was mortified when he came off stage and someone said to him, "You do know it looked like you did this." And he went "What? No. I was reacting to the comment of the nose business, singing through your nose." The truth of the matter is if you think about it, nobody in their right mind would pull a face like that when such a sensitive issue is being discussed. And he's not stupid, Simon, believe me. He certainly wouldn't do that, he just wouldn't.

Have you talked to the people the camera booth about what they thought they were catching with that particular shot, what they were cutting to?

Ken Warwick: They were cutting to the judges, because they expected - I mean who knows why, it's a live show. There's no specific reason. You get into the role of cutting between the judges. There had been some banter between Ryan and the singer. That's the way you cut it. You go between Ryan and whoever is singing, back to the judges, back to the singer, back to the judges, back to Ryan, back to the judges, back to the wide shot. So it's just the normal way of cutting that. It was not a deliberate ploy to cut back for any particular anything, other than just a shot of the judges.

Okay, so the director didn't notice that there was jawing going on between Simon and Paula that he wanted to catch or something.

Ken Warwick: In truth, Dan, I missed it. I'm sitting next to the director. I've got the monitor in front of me and I didn't even catch that he had done an eye roll. It was just the normal banter between the contestant and Ryan and the judges. I wasn't even aware, really of it until afterwards when someone said, "Oh you realize," and I went "No, let's see it again." Of course, we looked back at it and we saw what the fuss was about.

But obviously he came off and he was mortified, he said, "Oh my God, I can't believe that." He was literally reacting - he didn't hear him, because it's mad in there. He really didn't hear him and it was just in relation to what he thought was a stupid comment by Chris about singing through your nose is an accepted way of singing. He couldn't believe the guy was even arguing the point.

As you can imagine, it's quite a stir down here in Chris' hometown. Talking about Chris as a contestant, he's had a rocky four weeks or so. What do you think is happening with him, excluding the finale last night?

Ken Warwick: I think just that he is a very specific kind of singer, very of the moment. He's not a belter; he's got kind of a soft voice. He has kind of started singing - he's very modern and of the moment. He's a good looking boy and he does get good votes. The thing is when you come to certain kinds of songs, which is exactly the reason we put the genres there, who can step up to the mark every time, singing wise, that's the competition.

Maybe with country, he was a little bit, or that song, I don't think country, really, I think he was a little bit of a fish out of the water. And he has been for a couple of weeks in the way that he delivers his songs. But he's still doing okay. He's a good singer, don't get me wrong. He's a good singer, but everything is always relative in these competitions.

Do you think he's in for the hunt; he's still in the hunt?

Ken Warwick: Oh, yes, I do think he's still in the hunt, yes. Because it's not just about the voice. It's about your communication with an audience and he's got great communication there, the girls love him. He's a good looking kid.

I will ask about Idol Gives Back, but I have a question first about the voting. If Sanjaya continues to advance, as he seems to very well be doing, especially in the wake of this whole "Vote for the Worst" hoopla and Howard Stern.

Ken Warwick: Yes, but I have to say that, generally, the amount of people who listen to that show and vote has no relation on the final voting of the show. It's such an infinitesimally small percentage of the votes that come in, it will never, ever, really influence anything.

Did you ever consider doing, perhaps, a 50/50 split, like Dancing with the Stars, where 50% of the vote comes from viewers and 50% from the judges?

Ken Warwick: No, I'll never consider that. It's not a part of our format. As far as we're concerned it's the public at home who pick the idol. There has never been a case where they have been able to sufficiently put the vote one way or the other, skew the vote in any way. The voting numbers, I mean we had, I think, 38 million this week, 38 million votes.

Now with all due respect, even the biggest radio shows on earth are not going to have anything more than maybe 1,000 or 2,000 or even if it's 10,000 people who actually listen to that radio station and think, "Oh, we're going to do that." Ten thousand is a drop in the ocean and would never influence the outcome, one way or the other.

Fair enough. And then I did want to get in a question about Idol Gives Back. I'm just curious about how the idea came about and what, perhaps, has surprised you most about this whole campaign, be it the charities that you're giving to or the reaction from the public, what kinds of-

Ken Warwick: I don't know actually what the problem is going to be yet. I think the reaction from the stars speaks for itself. It's something that's done in Europe, this kind of charity entertainment show, which is mixed in with music and comedy and it's very successful. The telethon way of doing these kinds of shows is something a little bit that we don't - you know we've moved on from there in Europe, so it was only a matter of time before it came over here. And Richard Curtis, the guys that does what they call Red Nose Day in England, came over and said it would be so great if we could get it up and running.

So we decided, not actually that long ago, when you consider the amount of time that you need to make these shows, we started to put it together to see what kind of reaction we got, and we got such a fantastic reaction from the stars. And the stuff that was coming in, the emoted films and the actual instances that we found both here in America and in Africa were so moving that we felt, actually we've got to try to do something here if we can. So look, we'll try it. We've got the backing of the stars. We've got the backing of the corporations, and hopefully when it goes out, we'll see we've got the backing of the public and we'll see how we do.

And you're hoping to make it an annual event?

Ken Warwick: Who knows? I think it's going to put me in hospital .... At least next year, if we do it again, then we'll have more time. We'll know ahead of time and have more time to plan it, because it has been hectic, but it's going very well at the moment I have to say.

What is your reaction to Ryan apparently supporting the contestants more than ever this year, as he takes on the judges?

Ken Warwick: I love it. One of the attractions, if you like, people say to me, "Why is this show so popular? Why does it do this and why does it do that?" One of these points, very relevant points is the fact that there is quite curt banter, if you like, between the judges and Ryan. Ryan is always there to support the contestants, no matter what the situation. He's not there as a judge. He's there to champion their song and the way they sing it. So if he thinks that they're being bullied by Simon or any of the judges, it's part of his mandate. You step in there and you defend them if you think that's right, or ask the relevant questions.

Absolutely. And are the contestants prepared to perform two songs a night?

Ken Warwick: No, they only prepare one. When they're prepping, then they have a choice of whatever song they want to sing within the genre. But once they've picked it and it's arranged, then that's the song they're going to sing.

Coming up in the future, when it gets down to the four or five.

Ken Warwick: Yes, when we get down to the lower numbers, yes there is one week where they do have their own choice of what they want to sing, yes.

Do you believe that they are mentally prepared for that?

Ken Warwick: Oh God, yes, you'd be surprised; they amaze me every year, these kids. I mean look at Jordin, 17, my goodness bless her, she's one of the mature girls I've ever met in my life. She's lovely, and she's not fazed by any of it. It's great. They've been doing it for awhile now. They're in the swing of it. They know what is expected of them and they do it very well.

My first question for you is, how has the dynamic changed in the last couple of weeks backstage? I know that the kids have said that they're a really, really close group this year. So are they kind of getting more competitive now that it's getting more down to the wire?

Ken Warwick: It's always been competitive, because they know damned well that one of them has got to go every week. It's always been I've got to do the best I possibly can do, and be better than the next guy. They know all that, but by the same token, they're all in it together.

It's bit like being in a war zone to a certain extent. And just the fact that they all face the same problems and issues and hard work, if you like, and nerves, all together that would automatically draw people together. So it's not a new thing and it's not a unique thing, really. It's just the way it is.

So they haven't gotten more closed off or anything like that, despite getting down to the nitty-gritty.

Ken Warwick: No, they're still pretty close at the moment.

Okay, perfect. My other question for is my senior editor over here told me that you had had trouble in the past few years getting clearance with Beatle songs.

Ken Warwick: Yes, we had in the past. But everybody knows that, because everybody has had trouble. But we were in dialogue with them this year as part of one of the genres. The problem we found was that, the problem we had was obviously, we need a mentor that is up to the job. And we were after George Martin and his schedule, unfortunately, we tried every which way. We had permission from the record company, but we just couldn't get George. And without a mentor, it's meaningless.

Right, you want to give the genre, the Beatle songs justice.

Ken Warwick: Yes, absolutely.

Okay, so until you can get a mentor, we won't be seeing Beatles just yet on Idol.

Ken Warwick: Not just yet, no.

I just wanted to ask, do you feel that the judges are steering towards Jordin. I do feel that she's a favorite for them, and obviously the nation is pretty influenced by the judges' comments. I do feel that they lean towards her, very positively.

Ken Warwick: In truth I have to say where they can, they always pretty much tell the truth, because they've also been pretty supportive of Melinda every week. I don't think it's any more than anybody else who's good. They call it the way the see it. I mean had they had any kind of agenda towards making Jordin one of the frontrunners, they would have started earlier. It's just that in the past few weeks, she has impressed them. And it was one of those - as always with these shows, you find generally, it's the person that grows throughout the series that usually reaps the benefit at the end of it.

I think they're realizing that the one contestant that has consistently grown - Melinda has been good every week. LaKisha has been pretty good every week, but Jordin has grown. So it gives them something to talk about, because it maybe even a bit, they're probably getting fed up with saying Melinda is great every week. So Jordin is someone that they can hook into, and say, "You were much better than last week," or whatever. And it just gives them a bit more credibility, really.

Okay. One last question about the incident with Simon last night, did you actually speak to him directly after the show, and if so, what did you say to him?

Ken Warwick: To be honest with you, I missed it as well. I was in the box; I missed the eye roll completely. And then someone brought it up to me afterwards as we were walking out of the box and they obviously mentioned it to Simon, as well. Because immediately, I went to his trailer and he said, "Oh gosh, apparently it looked like I rolled my eyes afterwards." And I said "What?" And he said, "Chris made a comment, apparently, about the catastrophe in Virginia and I sort of went ...."

Now that was brought to ... and he said, "That's ridiculous, I didn't even hear it." So I said, "Okay," and we went back and reviewed it and he went "Oh gosh, look at it. It looks like I rolled me eyes at the end of it." And I say, "The fact of the matter is, you would have been a blinking fool if you did that." He said, "I didn't hear it." He was reacting to the comments that Chris was making about singing through your nose, which has been a legitimate way of singing, which Simon hates. So he was actually still - that was mulling through his mind.

It's difficult to hear what the contestant says on their lap mike in the studio, because you've got the audience noise and they're quite a way away from him and he just missed it. So it's as easy as that, there's not other way of explaining it to be truthful. It's just that he didn't hear it, end of story.

I just wanted to get it clear, there have been little items and stuff about Sanjaya being offered an endorsement thing from KFC chicken, and also Haley Scarnato who is from my market for like the Legg stockings or Nair hair removal because of her short- shorts and legs. Is that possible for these contestants or do they have wait awhile to enjoy something like that?

Ken Warwick: Generally I don't think they - to be absolutely honest, Jeanie, I'm not sure if there's a time. I know with regards to taking up recording contracts or promoting themselves in the music business, that there is a very definite wait. They have to wait until the Idol has released their song. They can't contaminate that market for I think, three months, minimum. But to be absolutely honest Jeanie, when it comes to things like that, because it's a totally different department that would handle ..., I don't know if there's a time limit.

I hope not to be truthful, because that wouldn't impact the show in any way. I kind of like to think the kids have gone on to do some other tangible way and they're getting something back out of it.

Could she do it now? She's been voted off, would that be possible? You say you don't really know, but would it be okay with you?

Ken Warwick: As far as I'm concerned, it's fine. But there's a whole legal department, both in Fox and with Fremantle International that handle that. If I got bogged down in the licensing and marketing issues, you could imagine what kind of a nightmare that would be on a show like this. So I tend to step back and I'm given, "This is what we've got to do this week in the show. This is what we're compelled to do." We do that, sometimes I argue that, because I think it's too much.

But generally speaking those things, especially if the contestants have gone, I leave up to the legal people to sort out. And as far as I'm concerned, bless them. They can do it. I would love Haley to do it; I think she'd be great at it.

Do you have a firm date for the finale?

Ken Warwick: I think it's the 23rd, what's the Wednesday of that last week, is it the 23rd of May? Hang on I'll tell you now, if you'd like he said, desperately trying to find his calendar.

Do the top ten all get to go on the finale or how does that work?

Ken Warwick: Yes, the top ten normally sing on the 22nd. The 22nd is the competition, on the 23rd it's the results show finale, the two hour and generally all ten of them are there, yes.

But are they able to be there for both shows?

Ken Warwick: No, because they're not part of the competition and the Tuesday night show is the competition.

A lot of people are saying that the finalists this year don't have quite the pizzazz of last year's candidates or even years before that. What do you think?

Ken Warwick: The truth of the matter is that it is a fact that last year was an exceptional year, the kids were just great last year. It was as much in their diversity and personalities as in their voices. So it was a very good year, last year. Are you asking me is this year's contestants as diverse? No. Are they better? Some are; some aren't. And a lot of this is subjective anyway. So you can ask one person and they say, "Yes, I love these people much more than I did last year." And you can ask someone else that says, "I thought last year's were great." I thought last year's were great, personally, I thought they were great. But this year's are pretty good, too.

First of all, you wrap in here a regular competition where they all sing on Tuesday and results on Wednesday within the show. Is that right?

Ken Warwick: That's right, yes.

So is the subject, Ryan mentioned it briefly, songs of inspiration. What is the category that they're singing?

Ken Warwick: That have inspired the contestants.

That have inspired. So it could be a gospel tune, but it could be any other uplifting song of any kind.

Ken Warwick: Absolutely.

And then the other thing, you list a lot of musical guests. Do we assume that they musical guests will be singing? In other words, when you like someone like a Gwen Stefani and Celine Dion, will they be singing?

Ken Warwick: They will. There are certain guests on there that are - I mean to be honest with you, the people that we've listed at the Disney Hall, Celine, Earth Wind and Fire, I'm sorry ....

Gwen Stefani and so on, yes.

Ken Warwick: They'll all be singing, yes.

For the non-singing people, I kind of assume that Borat, because he always seems to come with some kind of a prepared funny thing ....

Ken Warwick: He will.

What about other people like Keira Knightley and Hugh Grant, how do you plan to use those type of people?

Ken Warwick: I don't want to give away any surprises. The whole idea of one of these things is I want the audience to go, "Oh my God, that was funny." But these kinds of shows can be very, they can be a little bit depressing if you're not careful. So throughout the show, there is a certain amount of humor and a certain amount of shock value, shall we say, that is going to make people - well it's going to entertain people, and that's what we're after doing. But it's going to move people to put their hands in their pockets and make them want to watch to the very last until the little white dot goes.

Just one other thing, Richard Curtis being a very funny guy himself, will he have anything to do with this? Will he write any of these things that happen?

Ken Warwick: Not really, no he won't. He's just kind of in the executive producer phase, working with us in integrating these ideas into the show. And, of course, with a lot of these big stars, he's the one that has arranged them, because he's got clout in the movie business.

Will there be a mentor next week?

Ken Warwick: Not as such, no.

So I want to go back to what you were saying about how big these shows are, are they bigger than the finale putting this together?

Ken Warwick: No, they're just different, they're just different. This will have its own emotive volition by virtue of what it's about. So it's a different kind of show. It's a big show, too, but it's a different kind of show than the finale will be. We're not just repeating the kind of format that we did on last year's finale and then saying can we make some money out of it for these charities. It's a very different kind of show.

I want to go one other issue. I keep hearing from people that they think that Sanjaya is cheapening this show. What would you say to those people?

Ken Warwick: The truth of the matter is irrespective of what effect he's having on the show, he's there because people at home vote for him. And if they didn't like him, they wouldn't vote for him and he wouldn't be there. So the kid must be doing something right somewhere along the line. It's not just about the voice; it's about your communication with an audience to entertain them. It might be, oh my God I want to see him again, because I want to know what the hell he is going to do next. But the fact of the matter is that there are enough good singers in there and sometimes I have to say, last week, he was very good, I thought, with Besame Mucho. So the kid is not as bad as they keep saying, if you want to know the honest truth.

I'm sorry, I didn't catch that, the kid, what?

Ken Warwick: The kid is not as bad as so many people keep saying in truth. He's a good looking young boy. The young girls love him. The moms love him, so that communication is there. And his voice, as you saw in Besame Mucho last week, it's not as bad as people keep saying. It's just a bit of bandwagon jumping, a lot of it. But there are certain genres that he's good at, and certain genres that he's not good at. And it will be a question of when the public say, "You know what, I've had it now with Sanjaya" or whoever, "I think it's time that I kind of didn't put my vote in for him this week." When that happens, he'll be off; it's as easy as that.

Is he sort of just laughing off all of this?

Ken Warwick: He is laughing. He's handling it very well, because he's taken some pretty ... stick. But bless him, he's going on and he's saying, "If I'm here because of the fun I have and the way I present myself, then I'll blinking well keep doing it until such time that people have had enough of it."

How did the Gulf Coast component, the Louisiana component actually come about, what was the process? The reason I ask is that I've heard that it was actually Randy's request that ....

Ken Warwick: Randy knows the area. He comes from Baton Rouge, so it was close to his heart, basically. And when we were discussing where we should go in America to show the problems that there are at home, just as there are abroad, he said, "I'd love to go back down there to Louisiana and do some stuff," it's as easy as that to be honest.

Have you seen any of that footage that he shot down here?

Ken Warwick: I have, it's fabulous.

I'm from LaKisha' hometown, so I have two provincial questions for you. One is, if she were to get voted off tonight, what would your reaction be? And the second is, what is ahead of her, once she and if she is voted off the show?

Ken Warwick: The truth of the matter is if she's voted off the show, Doug, then it's exactly the same for her as it for anybody else. In that, if anybody has been watching or wants to record her, it might be that the record company that is with Idol wants to record her. If they do that, then they've already got the contract signed, she will go and record with them. They have the option to drop her if they don't want, or they don't think she's going to sell, then they have the option to drop her.

And after a period of time, she is then allowed to go to another record company and make records in that area, too. The kid has got a fairly good voice, so I would think that quite possibly sooner or later. And very often it's later, rather than sooner. Jennifer Hudson had gone a couple of years before her boat came in, her ship came in. So you never know exactly what's going to happen. But she's a pretty good singer. I'm not envisioning her being voted off tonight, but you never know.

I was just wondering if she did, and I know you probably are privy to this information at this point, but in the situation that she did, what would your response be?

Ken Warwick: Personally, I'd be surprised. She's got a good voice; she has got a good voice. But when you get down to this stage of the game, Doug, you never, never know what the public are going to do.


You've spent a bunch of this call talking about last night's eye roll. Are people getting too sensitive now, are we at an over sensitive state in the country at this point?

Ken Warwick: It's a very sensitive issue to be honest, that's the problem. And it's a very relevant issue, and it's something that we addressed at the beginning of the show. So it is a little bit over sensitive. Basically, the show makes news. There's always something happening and someone would always try to make something out of nothing, no matter what it is. And the fact is that if he had rolled his eyes in answer to Chris' statement and done it consciously, then he would have something to answer to, he would. But the truth of the matter is, he's not a stupid man; and he would by no means have done that, had he heard what Chris had said.

So it's pretty commonsense, really, for people to realize that he obviously didn't hear, because he would have never done it. But the truth of the matter is, we impact on a Tuesday and Wednesday, every other single network on TV, in such a horrendous way and for such a long period of time with our series, that there are a number of people who are affiliated to networks, they've all got their particular little journalistic clicks, that will jump on anything to try and maybe damage us, maybe hurt us, maybe put us down a little bit, maybe do something that means that next week maybe they'll do a little bit better in the ratings.

It's an ongoing thing. It isn't just the ratings are good every week. It's not just the damage that we do every week to the other networks at these times. It's also the fact that invariably it means that Fox wins the sweeps for the year, and that is a huge profit for them. So there's always going to be interest from all areas on whatever happens in the show. And even if there's any ambiguous situation whatsoever, then people are going to make the most of it, if they can.

It did seem that Chris threw that statement in out of nowhere, because they were tussling over this nasal comment. Have you read any of the online stuff or have you seen any of the e-mails or calls that the network has gotten?

Ken Warwick: No, I haven't to be honest, because I'm not interested. I knew what the issue would be. It was the fact that it was a non-issue issue, as far as I was concerned. And anybody with any commonsense would have realized that it was a non-issue, issue for the simple reason that, Simon as I said, isn't stupid and he certainly wouldn't do that, he certainly wouldn't. So there's no point in reading it to be honest. I know what they're going to say.

I just wanted to hear from your own mouth what you thought of this whole Sanjaya mania phenomenon.

Ken Warwick: Best of luck to him, to be honest with you. As I said before, he's a good looking boy. Young girls love him. Moms love him. He hasn't got a bad voice at all. You know last week he was very, very good, he was one of the best. He's a little bit different, but that never hurts any television program.

As far as I'm concerned, as a television producer, as long as I've got somebody there that's keeping people interested, then I'm very happy with it. But he is there because people vote for him every week. The minute they think they've had enough or they really think he's that bad, they ain't going to vote for him and he's going to be off the show. It's as easy as that.

As a follow-up, I know you said that the "Vote for the Worst" folks are just a drop in the bucket. Do you wish they'd go away?

Ken Warwick: They are, mate, in truth. As I say this week, spread amongst seven contestants, you had 38 million votes. Now even if, even if 200,000 people thought, "Oh Howard Stern has got a point there, I'm going to get on the line and try to spoil that," and believe me, the number is nothing like that, then it still wouldn't make any difference. So we kind of let ... back.

I know you said you're going to in the recap say a little bit, just reshow what happened last night with Chris and Simon, you guys have iso-cameras and Simon said on the radio this morning with Ryan Seacrest that he and Paula, he was asking her about, what did he mean when he said nasally, so that camera angle exists. Is it possible to just show them chatting, so that we can move past this issue?

Ken Warwick: Yes, but the mikes are up at that point, because you get feedback and all sorts of things. We are looking at it as we speak, because as I said, we produced the show this morning, to see if there's anyway that we can clear it up. And believe me, if there is, it will be there.

My second question is sort of a random one. I've heard that on the original version of this show, British Pop Idol, in the last two seasons the people who won the show were very, along the lines of Sanjaya, not the greatest singers, but kind of - and I'm not saying that Sanjaya people see as a joke, some may. But they were kind of not the ones that everyone wanted to win. They were the people that maybe at votefortheworst.com would have said should have won, and that the show sort of died after that. Do you think that if Sanjaya wins, this show could have that exact same thing happen to it?

Ken Warwick: No, someone has been feeding you - are you talking about X Factor?

No, I'm talking about the Pop Idol.

Ken Warwick: There were only two Pop Idol series. The first Pop Idol was won by Will Young, who is a very good singer, a very, very good singer. And has had so many number ones since then. He is a huge star. He certainly isn't of poor quality, he certainly isn't. Take my word for it.

So maybe it was X Factor then.

Ken Warwick: Well if it was X Factor, I've got nothing to say about it, because the fact of the matter is that the X Factor is a different talent base. There are no age limits. It's open to groups, to singers. It's open to everybody, X Factor, so it's a different format. And X Factor is still going, so I don't really know - there are certain air times when the public get behind someone who has maybe got appeal, but doesn't have the best voice in the world.

But to be honest with you, I've never had anything to do with that show. I made Pop Idol in England, beforehand, like I said with Will Young on it, and as I say, he was a very good singer. And then I came out here. So I can't really comment on it, other than to say that I don't really think that that's true of this show.

So you think if Sanjaya wins the show can still go on and continue and be the mega success - you know when you look at somebody like Carrie Underwood's success, she just was so perfect for country, and then Sanjaya could he sell records, could it damage the show?

Ken Warwick: You've got to remember this Laura, the American Idol is the last three minutes of the last show of a 48 hour series, this is about the journey. And the shows appeal is about the journey and there are always going to be people like Sanjaya, like Chicken Little last year, like John the crooner the year before. There are always going to be people in that final mix that people talk about, say they're the worst, say they're terrible, say get him off. To be honest it's part and parcel of the show. And to be honest, the day we get to the point where there is nobody like that in the top ten, then I'm going to worry about the series.

I have a question I guess it sort of dovetails two subjects, the Beatles show and sort of network rivalries. Given the fact that Heather Mills is on Dancing with the Stars, wouldn't you love to have Paul McCartney as a mentor?

Ken Warwick: I'd love to have Paul McCartney as a mentor, yes, absolutely. The problem is I think he early on, I think in the English show, and I don't know whether this is true or not. This is what I've heard, he kind of took exception to Simon's acid comments about the contestants. You know he's a nice guy and he didn't like Simon saying "You're horrible. You're the worst I've ever heard. You shouldn't be singing," or whatever he says. And so the chances of Paul coming on the show were pretty slim.

We were trying to get, as I said earlier, George Martin to mentor that show, and you do need a credible mentor, if you're doing the Beatles. And his schedule, although he was up for, we got a really nice letter saying, "I would love to do it. But unfortunately, I'm France this day. I'm in Switzerland the next day. There's no way I can actually be there on the date that you need me." And, of course, we can't change the day of the show, so it's a very specific date they have to adhere to. And if they can't do it, then they can't do it. And so it was that reason, and that reason only that we went to British Invasion week, which had good stuff in it, too, it was a good week.

Terrific week, I thought, maybe the best.

Ken Warwick: It was great. But the fact of the matter is, it's also something that we don't want to contaminate and we want to do the Beatles in the future. So we'll just wait until George is free and we can fit him in and then we'll go for it.

And then an unrelated follow-up, do you sometimes think that Melinda is just too mature for a show that emphasizes sort of young talent? Sometimes, given her professional background, and I don't know what her age is, but she just seems so much more mature than the rest of the group.

Ken Warwick: Well, she is more mature, mate, to be honest with you. But the fact of the matter is that it's not my decision, it's the public's. If they think that she's fine and great and they want to see here again and again, then they vote for her, then she's going to be there. It's as easy as that. It's not my - you know I long ago gave up worrying about what my personal favorites were.

Last year I loved Cat McPhee. I thought she was great. I thought she was gorgeous. I thought she had a great singing voice. I knew for a fact she could dance like there's no tomorrow. I knew she could act really well. She was just a really, really talented all-arounder. I would have loved her to have won last year, but it wasn't to be. There was somebody there that was a singer that was a bit quirky, people liked him and he was the winner, end of story. So what I think is immaterial, really.

But just wouldn't the preponderance of professionals sort of change the show if there were more ....

Ken Warwick: You know the public are not daft, if people get too slick and too - it becomes samey, people don't like samey. That's why Sanjaya has been there all this time. The one thing he is not is samey, and people like that. They do vote for people that change it about and vary. The thing you will find, generally with them, with professional singers or semi-professional singers is that they tend to be a little bit the same each week.

Melinda is fine. She's doing very well. The public do love Melinda, so the chances are, she'll be there for awhile to come, hopefully, but you never know.

You've offered two scenarios for the eye roll, one he didn't hear him and two, he's crazy. But what about a third explanation? Simon has rolled his eyes before at contestants who seem to be appealing to the audience's sympathies, rather than how they feel about their voice.

Ken Warwick: He has. However, I know for a fact ....

Because that was my reaction, quite frankly, I thought, "Oh, yeah, he doesn't like that. He thinks he's playing to the audience."

Ken Warwick: Yes, but the fact of the matter is, even if he had thought that, with the sensitivity of the issue, I don't honestly think he would have been silly enough to have pulled a face after a statement like that, I really don't. We had addressed it earlier on in the show; he knew he was going to make a statement at the end. I honestly can't really believe, Ellen, that he would be so silly as to have pulled a face at Chris' statement.

I know for a fact, because he came out - I know it's hard to hear in there. I know when you're picking up the contestants on their lap mikes, it's almost impossible. As much as you've seen him roll his eyes at people appealing to the audience, you've also heard him say, "What, I can't hear you, what are you saying, talk louder?"

So the fact of it was he was mulling over a statement, which he thought was stupid of Chris', which was, really, that it's an accepted way of singing through your nose and it's something that people do. And we all know he has always hated that. He's always hated when someone is singing through their nose, and he takes it as being a way of not singing very well.

And he couldn't believe that Chris was trying to justify it by saying that it was an accepted way of singing. And that was what was in his head. He didn't hear the statement or he heard a mumble and he was still rolling his eyes about what he didn't hear.

I didn't completely ....

Ken Warwick: About what Chris was singing, that's the plain, simple fact of the matter.

I didn't completely understand it when you were talking about the speakers. There are different speakers for when they are singing and when they are talking?

Ken Warwick: Yes, there are. The speakers behind the judges, facing them, are the ones are recording the hand mike and the band mix. It's very loud and as a result, it's turned down. Now the sound guys, they usually leave that at a constant level, because it's got to be fair. The judges have got to hear all the singers at the same volume all the way throughout the show.

Now genuinely with something that was that loud, if you had someone just talking into a lap mike, a bit like that, you wouldn't hear them on those speakers. So those are boosted throughout the studio, those lap mikes and they're not directed at the judges. Ryan, who is quite loud and quite direct, they pick up. Although sometimes, they even don't hear Ryan, properly. But they certainly have huge difficulty with hearing what the kids say on a lap mike, they really do, especially with the audience making the noise that they make. It's the plain simple truth of it in truth.

American Idol airs Tuesday and Wednesday nights at 8/7c on Fox.

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Evan Jacobs at Movieweb
Evan Jacobs