Tyler likely to fill judges seat on ‘Idol’

Deal would bring Aerosmith frontman to TV

Dude looks like a judge.

Although Fox was in shutdown mode and would “neither confirm nor deny” the reports Wednesday that Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler had signed his deal to appear on “American Idol” next season, one source close to the situation told Daily Variety that the deal is essentially done.

Late in the day, Aerosmith bass player Tom Hamilton told the New Jersey Star-Ledger: “Steven is doing ‘American Idol.’ The ink is dry on that. We’ll have to work around his schedule for a new record. Steven is someone who absolutely lives to be in front of an audience, and the people closest to him know how witty and entertaining he can be. I don’t know if ‘American Idol’ will be rock ‘n’ roll enough for him, but it is an opportunity for millions of people to see another side of Steven Tyler.”

Tyler’s name has been floated around for several weeks, but all of the talk has been speculative. When called to confirm whether Tyler had cemented his deal, the singer’s manager, Eric Sherman, declined comment.

The show has at least one judge’s seat to fill and most likely two. After one season, Ellen DeGeneres is officially off the show, and Kara DioGuardi is likely to be replaced as well. Randy Jackson, who has been on the show from the beginning, seems to have a secure spot.

With Simon Cowell gone and readying for the fall 2011 launch of “X Factor,” Fox will likely give “Idol” a chance to breathe and use only three judges for the upcoming season. With four on the panel last season, the show received criticism that there was too much time spent on comments and not enough on the singers.

Tyler, 62, has fronted Aerosmith for 40 years. He has suffered from health problems and has had drug- and alcohol-related issues throughout his career. Late last year, the band had to cancel a summer tour because Tyler fell off the stage at a concert in South Dakota. That followed a stint in rehab for addiction to painkillers.

Nigel Lythgoe, who will return to “Idol” as exec producer this season after being onboard for the first seven seasons, told Daily Variety earlier this month that Tyler “has come through that whole rock ‘n’ roll circus. Why wouldn’t you want a legend there? You never know what he’s going to say. That, as a TV producer, you’re interested in.”

One source said the Tyler deal has been in the works for several days but the logistics of putting together the deal can take time. Fox and the producers of “Idol” — FremantleMedia North America and 19 Entertainment — must have the judges panel set by mid-September, when taping will begin for next season’s talent auditions.

If Tyler is indeed signed, sealed and delivered, it would mark the first time “Idol” has had a rock presence at the judges table. Some have questioned whether he would be as tough and mean-spirited as Cowell, but it would be nearly impossible to find someone who would be able to capture both Cowell’s caustic nature and his magnetism for the viewing aud.

Eight years older than Jackson, Tyler would be the oldest judge. Fox could be taking a chance in choosing Tyler — despite his impressive musical pedigree, viewers on the lower end of the 18-49 demo may be unfamiliar with him.

According to reports, Tyler’s deal would be for less than what Jennifer Lopez was asking, which was in the neighborhood of $20 million. Cowell was making approximately $36 million per year, and Fox may not want to pay north of that for two new untested judges who may not be able to turn around the fading ratings.

With Lopez’s name bandied about but unconfirmed, country music sensation Shania Twain has also been brought into the mix. She may be able to tap into a country music base that “Idol” has yet to court in a significant way.

Ratings for “American Idol” fell approximately 25% last season, and while the show remains the overall champ in the 18-49 demo, there have been cracks in the armor. For the first time ever, the Monday telecast of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” drew a bigger total audience than the Tuesday performance show of “Idol.”

Reasons for the decline include what some perceived as a lackluster group of contestants last season and DeGeneres being reluctant to comment negatively when she wasn’t impressed by a performer.

Lythgoe said: “My concerns were over the last couple of years, we’ve lost sight of the fact that the most important people on the show are the young artists. It revolved around Kara coming in to make four judges, which often left no time for them to talk. Then it was about Paula leaving, and then about Ellen joining.”

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