Reality producer Nigel Lythgoe is near a deal to to executive produce Fox's "American Idol" -- and that could spell trouble for the current judges panel.
Fox is seeking to bring back Lythgoe to work on the hit series as part of a master plan to reboot the show following the exit of top judge Simon Cowell.
In addition, "Idol" fans can add pop star Justin Timberlake to the list of potential Cowell replacements. Timberlake, along with legendary singer Elton John, is on "Idol" producer 19 Entertainment chief Simon Fuller's wish list.
Lythgoe helped launch the "Idol" phenomenon in the U.K. with "Pop Idol" along with creator Fuller and shepherded the U.S. version for six years. He currently produces and judges Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance."
Two years ago, Lythgoe left "Idol" as part of a shake-up by Fox and 19 Entertainment to try to freshen the series. But ratings continued to slip, and Lythgoe has often criticized the series, saying the contestants and judges panel weren't very compelling.
Industry rumors have been circulating for weeks that Fuller and Fox are considering not just replacing Cowell, but dumping the entire judges panel. And the biggest public advocate of such a nuclear option is Lythgoe, who told a reporter in April that if he was in charge, he would replace all the remaining judges. Lythgoe was also a critic of having four judges on the show instead of three, saying having an extra judge distracts viewers from focusing on the competitors.