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Q&A: 'American Idol's executive producer

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American Idol, Season 10, Top 13

© Fox / Michael Becker

There was a cry of disbelief across America earlier this month when finalist Pia Toscano was eliminated from American Idol. A wave of celebrities were among the fans who took to their Twitter accounts to lament her departure, while many pointed out the fact the vote seemed to favour the boys over the girls in the competition. So, could we see a tweaked voting system in the future? And what should Pia do next in her career? Read on to hear what executive producer Ken Warwick told reporters about those questions - and more - in a recent conference call...

On why the boys are doing better than the girls this season...
"It's no secret that most reality shows are female driven, either by mums or young girls, and especially when you have a group of boys like we've got this year. It does mean that we know we will get a heftier amount of female votes and it's always been towards the boys, obviously. The texting and the tweeting and the kind of social glue that we strive for, to be truthful - we want things that kids talk about in school the next day - makes us aware that the voting could be quite possibly skewed towards the boys. Case in point, losing Pia a couple of weeks ago. It's something that we're going to have a long discussion about after we finish the series. We won't change anything at the moment - it will go the way it goes."

On whether the judges should provide more guidance in their critique rather than liking everybody the same…
"I know it's a television show and people love disagreements and arguments, but the truth of the matter is, these kids are very good. I wouldn't influence the judges to say anything they didn't honestly believe. Jennifer did say last week, 'Oh my god, I only have two girls left! Come on! Please America, vote fairly and make sure some of these kids are in'. She was talking about Haley and the next day she went out and performed with Casey and it was fabulous. They are trying to keep things on the straight and narrow where they feel it is a genuine feeling, and that's all I can ask them to do."

On advice for contestants like Pia Toscano who want a music career...
"She needs to be able to record songs that people want to buy and listen to and download! That's the long and the short of it, to be honest. Hopefully, she'll get some expert guidance and some good talent behind her. She's a talent and, personally, she went at the wrong time for me, but it's the public who vote and that's the end of it. That's what the show is about and I can't change that. The girl obviously has something that people want to listen to, and that's why she's been successful. She's a nice kid; a lovely girl. She's on a lot of shows at the moment, mostly because people think an injustice was done, I guess. I wish her well. It's all in the hands of the record producers and people that look after her now that she's passed away from me. Bless her, she was on the show again this week, she'll be going on the tour at the end of the series, and I wish her all the luck and sincerely hope she makes it. She has a great voice."

On whether we could see a record from Pia or another contestant before the winner's album...
"It wouldn't surprise me. That's the nature of the business. if we have a rising star that the record companies and CKX think is very marketable now, then they will try to get records out and do what the whole process is, which is make a star of that person irrespective of when they go out. I don't know exactly what the plans for Pia are now, but I know that if I was in the record company's seat, I would be looking to get her out as early as possible while there is all this buzz about her."

On whether he worries that focus on contestants like Pia could detract from the winner...
"We used to [worry] in the old days, to be honest, but the truth of the matter is that as time has gone on, seeing as so often the big star doesn't come from the winner, it comes from the Top 5 or 10, it's unfair to hold someone back so we can promote someone else. The kids are so diverse this year that it's every likelihood the music direction the winner goes in will be different from the big power ballads that Pia sings. Because of the different styles of music we think they will probably be slightly different markets and it doesn't worry us."

On whether American Idol can create a big male star...
"The answer is, I don't know. I make a television show and at the end of that show I hopefully give the record company a person who has a following of 20, 30 million people. What they do from then on is absolutely nothing to do with me. I move on to next year's show, start holding auditions and putting pre-production together. Have there been mistakes made in the past by record companies? Yes, there have been. Has necessarily the best person always won? You could say Kris Allen hasn't really broken, but there is always a hell of a buzz around Adam Lambert. All it illustrates for me is that from the Top 5 upwards, there's usually a star in there somewhere. It's just a question of luck in who picks them up, where they go, and what song they release. I would say that, quite honestly while not every Idol has become a star, there are a lot of Idols who have become stars. This year, I'm pretty sure that whoever comes out of this series will break. There's been a big changeover with the record company and the whole mentality towards how we market the person who wins this. I'm reasonably confident that the winner has got some sort of ongoing future."

On whether there is a limit on the number of performances a contestant can do with musical instruments?
"No, it's really up to producers' discretion. If someone came to me and told me they wanted to perform behind a guitar every week, I would say 'No.' I've got to be fair and I've got to be sensible. What I told them at the beginning was, 'I don't want any of this hiding behind an instrument because you don't know what to do with yourself. You have to put yourself out there, capture your audience and hiding behind a guitar week after week isn't going to happen. If you do a performance and want to play the guitar, that's fine'. Initially I'm going to say twice but every year is different. I do believe this year it isn't an issue, last year it was an issue. I think the only way I can treat it fairly is to take it on a case-by-case basis."

On upcoming reality shows like The X Factor and The Voice
"Do you have any idea how many three-judge talent shows there are on TV and have been over the last ten years? And not just in this country. I can't get worried about it, to be honest. What will be will be. I'm very proud of the fact we've been here ten years. Of course I think our show is the best, that it has the most integrity and the best track record. I love the fact it's young talent, and it's one of those shows that has become part of America's fabric. I can't get myself overly worried or concerned about it and I'm not about to change anything radically to keep up with something I haven't seen yet and hasn't been proven."

American Idol continues tonight at 8/7c on Fox when another singer will be sent home. Katy Perry will also take to the stage to perform her single 'E.T.', while season seven winner David Cook will debut his new track 'The Last Goodbye'

More from American Idol:
> American Idol - Who should go home?
> Gallery: American Idol - 21st Century Songs
> Steven Tyler censored on American Idol
> Casey Abrams kisses J.Lo on American Idol

All Images: Copyright: Fox/Michael Becker

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