Also Credited As:Nasty Nigel
Nigel Lythgoe became a television insider because of his 10 year association with the granddaddy of all reality talent competitions, "American Idol. " But this son of a dockworker from Northern England started out as a hoofer. And after striking gold with America's vocal chords, he returned to his first love on the dance reality program "So You Think You Can Dance," a show that transformed a defining obsession into gold for this …
|July 9, 1949|
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Nigel Lythgoe became a television insider because of his 10 year association with the granddaddy of all reality talent competitions, "American Idol. " But this son of a dockworker from Northern England started out as a hoofer. And after striking gold with America's vocal chords, he returned to his first love on the dance reality program "So You Think You Can Dance," a show that transformed a defining obsession into gold for this producer-turned-reality television celeb.
Nigel Lythgoe was born July 9 1949, in Wirral, England. As is frequently the case for working-class kids hoping to better themselves, this Merseyside boy of humble beginnings felt the call of the stage and was drawn to tap dancing as a preteen. He soon rounded out this passion and studied all styles of dance, eventually securing his first professional job in the Corps de Ballet for a touring production of "The Merry Widow."
In 1971 Lythgoe started to seek work as a choreographer, getting his first major break in 1972 on that year's episode of the long-running UK variety show "A Christmas Night with the Stars" (BBC 1958-1994). In 1973 he became choreographer on the UK variety series "The Jack Jones Show" (BBC 1973-78). That same year he worked on one episode of the musical and variety sketch show "The Harry Secombe Show" (BBC 1968-1973), and worked on 10 episodes of "It's Lulu" (BBC 1970-73), hosted by the popular recording artist best known for her 1967 hit "To Sir With Love."
By 1976, Lythgoe branched out even further, first serving as floor director and choreographer on an episode of "The Muppet Show" (ITV 1976-1981), then as choreographer on six episodes of the short-lived comedy show "Bill Dainty, Esq." (ITV 1975-76), and choreographer on the first of two six-episode installments of "The Shirley Bassey Show" (BBC 1976).
Building on that success, Lythgoe worked on a television variety show featuring Cilla Black and Petula Clark, "London Night Out" (ITV 1978-1983), "The Ken Dodd Laughter Show" (ITV 1979), and "The Morecambe & Wise Show" (ITV 1978-1983). More notably, 1981 was also the year Lythgoe traded in his tap shoes for a producer's hat, serving as associate producer on a UK TV movie about music hall entertainers Bud Flanagan and Chesney Allen, "Bud 'n' Ches" (ATV 1981).
For the next several years he cut his teeth as producer on various UK television series until 1988, when he worked on "Bobby Davro's TV Weekly" (ITV 1988). By 1989 Lythgoe pivoted again by directing and producing Davro's comedy series "Sketch Pad" (ITV 1989). In 1991 he began producing family game shows like "Bob's Your Uncle" (ITV 1991), which paved the way for his defining associations with reality television, like the overwrought athletic competition, "Gladiators: The Ashes" (ITV 1995-97).
Between 1992 and 1999, Lythgoe also worked on 108 episodes of the competition's parent show, "Gladiators"(ITV 1992-2000), first as producer and then executive producer. In the middle of his association with the franchise, Lythgoe worked on seven episodes of another reality show, "The Big Big Talent Show" (ITV 1996-97), which was the first venture that connected the dots between his previous career as a choreographer and the career that lay before him, a producer of variety talent competitions.
In 2000 Lythgoe began his association with the first in a long series of talent shows that would not only define his career, but the reality show genre as well. He was executive producer of the final show on the Australian version of the International signing competition "Pop Stars" (ITV 1999), before joining the UK follow-up program, "Pop Idol" (ITV 2001-03).
The genre proved to be a runaway train, and that following year Lythgoe was importing his expertise to America for the nascent "American Idol" (FOX 2002-). During his tenure with the genre-defining show, Lythgoe served as segment producer, co-executive producer, producer and executive producer, working on 243 episodes as well as multiple specials, documentaries and movie spin-offs.
After a period of declining ratings, talent attrition and rumors of internal disputes, Lythgoe eventually left the show. In what proved to be an apt segue, the former hoofer became co-creator and star of the reality dance competition "So You Think You Can Dance"(Fox 2005-). The show became a popular and critical success, winning 11 Primetime Emmys and garnering 20 more nominations.