A secretive plan to have Jennifer Lopez replace Mariah Carey midseason on American Idol was abandoned when Carey’s heavyweight legal team threatened action, according to the Hollywood Reporter. This year’s ratings have been pretty disastrous, with Carey failing to establish the same on-screen presence as Lopez did with ease. The multi-million selling diva was the big new addition to the judge’s panel this year, though her chemistry with Nicki Minaj has been non-existent and Fox put in place a plan to replace both.

“This is just another ridiculous Idol judge rumor, likely started by talks of Jennifer performing on the finale,” a Fox spokeswoman tells THR in a statement. Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe said, “I have not been included in any conversation regarding replacing Mariah with Jen this season”, though sources close to the situation say they’re merely covering up a badly executed coup d’etat.

American Idol kicked off its twelfth season in decent fashion - a 6.0 rating and 17.9 million viewers will have convinced Fox that Carey and Minaj were the perfect replacements for fan-favorite Lopez and rocker Steven Tyler. Then things went wrong. The Wednesday performance show is averaging a paltry 4.3 rating, it’s worst since the 2001 season. In worse news for Idol, the newly rebooted The Voice with a more contemporary judging panel including Shakira and Usher has seen ratings climb to 5.2. Last week, American Idol was beaten by The Big Bang Theory, which on the surface doesn’t seem so bad, right? Well, it was a repeat episode of the comedy show. The realisation probably sent Idol producers scrambling around for ideas, and replacing Carey with Lopez was apparently the best they had to offer.

Insiders sat Fox reality chief Mike Darnell and Fremantle’s Cecile Frot-Coutaz have been especially concerned with the sink in ratings and hoped a shake-up on the judges’ panel would help. Grammy winner Carey is the most high profile judge Idol has managed to attract in its twelve year existence, though she has failed to generate the following that Lopez had. The sharp tonged Minaj has not pulled in the younger demographic, as was hoped, and, well, Keith Urban….we don’t really know what Keith Urban does. “The core viewer is a Midwestern, Southern, older woman who is threatened by Nicki’s aggressiveness,” said one knowledgeable source.

It leaves Idol in a real mess heading into the second half of the current season, with Carey now aware that she is no longer wanted on the panel. The search is apparently underway for a replacement for next season, with sources telling the Hollywood Reporter that producers are “not necessarily looking for a star,” indicating an industry professional might be next in.

Jennifer LopezMariah Carey
Jennifer Lopez [L] Was A Firm Favorite on American Idol, Though Mariah Carey [R] Has Failed To Connect With Audiences