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Int'l Emmys to honor 'Idol' producer Nigel Lythgoe

The Associated Press, Sunday, November 20, 2011, 12:42pm (PST)

NEW YORK (AP) -- "American Idol" executive producer Nigel Lythgoe might have to print some new business cards after he receives a special honor at the 39th Annual International Emmy Awards Ceremony.

"I've been nominated (six times) for an Emmy for 'American Idol' ... and haven't won any of them," Lythgoe said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I've even got printed on my business card 'multi-Emmy loser' so it's going to be wonderful to actually accept one."

Lythgoe, 62, who returned as "Idol's" executive producer last season, will be presented the honorary International Emmy Founders Award on Monday night at the Hilton New York Hotel in recognition of his work as "a major reality show innovator" as well as for "his amazingly deep commitment to dance around the world," said Bruce L. Paisner, president and CEO of the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

Lythgoe produced the British TV phenomenon, "Pop Idol," and then was tasked with creating its American version in 2002. He attributes "American Idol's" eventual success to Rupert Murdoch's decision to leave its British production team alone and not try to Americanize the show.

"I think Americans sugarcoated all the critiques that they would do on shows like this," said Lythgoe, who earned the nickname Nasty Nigel for his caustic remarks as a judge on the British show "Popstars." "With bringing Simon Cowell out here we knew we wanted this new honesty.

"When we first came here, we had people waiting with baseball bats ready to take Simon out. The second year he'd get booed and there would be a smattering of applause. The third year he was getting applause and cheers."

The presentation to Lythgoe, who also produces and helps judge "So You Think You Can Dance?," will be a main event at the awards ceremony, hosted again by former "Beverly Hills 90210" star Jason Priestley. Forty nominees from a record 20 countries will be competing in 10 categories for International Emmys, honoring excellence in TV programming outside the U.S.

British television productions had a leading seven nominations. Christopher Eccleston was nominated for best actor for his role in an episode of the crime anthology series "Accused," which also is up for best drama. Julie Walters is contending for best actress for her portrayal of Mo Mowlam, the late Secretary of State for Northern Ireland who battled a brain tumor while working to forge the 1998 peace accords, in the film "Mo."

"Mo" will be competing in the TV Movie/Miniseries category with Sweden's "Millennium," based on the late Stieg Larsson's crime novel trilogy. Its stars, Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace, are up for Emmys in the acting categories.

Brazil had six nominations, all for TV Globo productions, including best actor and actress nominations for Fabio Assuncao and Adriana Esteves in the TV movie "Songs of Betrayal" about the passionate relationship between two music stars.

Actress Archie Panjabi ("The Good Wife") and Citigroup chairman Richard Parsons will present the honorary International Emmy Directorate Award to Indian media mogul Subhash Chandra, who launched India's first privately owned television channel nearly 20 years ago and now reaches more than 600 million viewers worldwide with his Zee TV network.

Paisner said Lythgoe is particularly worthy of the Founders Award which recognizes "significant achievements in television that cross cultural boundaries and contribute to our common humanity."

Lythgoe is being honored in part for his philanthropic work. In 2009, along with actress Katie Holmes, director-choreograph er Adam Shankman and "Dancing with the Stars" judge Carrie Ann Inaba, he founded the Dizzy Feet Foundation, which provides scholarships to young dancers to study with leading professional companies and supports dance education programs.

Lythgoe, a former dancer and choreographer, says he was initially skeptical when "Idol" creator Simon Fuller suggested he use his background to create "So You Think You Can Dance?" in 2005. He credits the show with helping create a new style of dancer blending classical with street dance.

"I believe 'So You Think You Can Dance?' has given a whole new integrity to dance," Lythgoe said. "I think dads now are starting to enjoy it and understand why their kids want to dance."

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