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Nigel Lythgoe Returning to ‘American Idol’ for Final Farewell Episode (EXCLUSIVE)

Longtime “American Idol” producer Nigel Lythgoe is returning to the show’s farewell season to exec produce the final episode, Variety has learned exclusively.

The finale will mark Lythgoe’s return to “American Idol,” since he departed after Season 13 to focus on “So You Think You Can Dance,” which kept him in the Fox family as a judge on the dance competition show.

The deal to return was made by Fremantle Media, as the production company invited Lythgoe to produce the finale, as his final bow. Fremantle’s president of entertainment Trish Kinane, who will serve as showrunner on “American Idol” Season 15, will also serve as an exec producer on the final episode.

Though he was not involved with the long-running reality singing competition for its most recent 14th season, Lythgoe helped develop and was an original exec producer on “Pop Idol,” the British series, created by Simon Fuller, on which “American Idol” and the entire “Idol” franchise is based. Stateside, Lythgoe exec produced “American Idol” the from the debut season in 2002 through its seventh season in 2008, then returning for Season 10 through the thirteenth.

“I doubt we will ever see another television show with the same cultural and social impact as ‘American Idol.’ It has also given such incredible opportunities to so many young, talented performers and changed so many lives, including my own,” Lythgoe says in a statement to Variety. “Consequently, I am delighted and proud to rejoin the ‘Idol’ team in order to create what is sure to be one of the most memorable and spectacular finales in all of television history.”

Kinane commented, “Nigel is an incredibly talented producer who helped make ‘Idol’ an iconic television show. He was part of our ‘Idol’ family for many years and I’m delighted that he is joining our team for the final episode of the farewell season on Fox. It’s going to be an amazing finale to celebrate ‘Idol’s’ rich and ongoing legacy.”

Created by Fuller, “American Idol,” which ranked as the No. 1 series on broadcast television for eight of its 14 seasons, debuted more than a decade ago with original judges Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell (who came from “Pop Idol”). Other A-list judges during the show’s impressive run have included Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Steven Tyler and Ellen DeGeneres.

Though plans for the final season are still in the works, many more familiar “Idol” faces are expected to return, including various judges, contestants and winners.

Ryan Seacrest, whose hosted since the beginning, is back for Season 15, along with judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr.

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