American Idol gives back: stars align for charity concert

CanWest News Service
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Nigel Lythgoe didnt need the hassle. As the co-producer of American Idol, the one-time choreographer for The Muppets and former head of entertainment-and-comedy for London Weekend Television in the U.K. - the TV equivalent of head of A&R for a major record label - Lythgoe helped usher in a generational pop-cultural sensation.

Nigel Lythgoe didnt need the hassle. As the co-producer of American Idol, the one-time choreographer for The Muppets and former head of entertainment-and-comedy for London Weekend Television in the U.K. - the TV equivalent of head of A&R for a major record label - Lythgoe helped usher in a generational pop-cultural sensation.

With an average weekly audience of 40 million viewers, Idol is hardly crying out for attention. Lythgoe himself is now the president of Idols parent company, 19 Entertainment, and the creator, producer and a full-time judge of So You Think You Can Dance. Life is good.

Still, something seemed missing.

So when Idol creator Simon Fuller and British writer Richard Curtis floated the idea of a charity benefit, modeled after Comic Relief, to combat poverty in Africa and the U.S. inner-city, Lythgoe jumped aboard.

The result was Idol Gives Back, a two-hour televised fundraiser that last year raised $76 million on behalf of famine victims and the less fortunate that popular-entertainment TV so often overlooks.

This years broadcast is both longer - two and a half hours - and more ambitious. Lythgoe knew that for Idol Gives Back to reach beyond Idol viewers, the event needed to transcend the Carrie Nation and fans afflicted with McPheever.

To that end, hes lined up appearances by Brad Pitt, Celine Dion, Forest Whitaker, Reese Witherspoon, Adam Sandler, Jim Carrey, Gloria Estefan, John Legend, The Rock, Dane Cook, Fergie, Heart and Miley Ray Cyrus, among others. Bono and Alicia Keyes will appear in taped segments; Annie Lennox, Snoop Dogg, Maroon 5, Mariah Carey, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams and former Idol winner and current country sensation Carrie Underwood will perform live, in person.

Asked by Canwest News Service if he was worried at all about donor fatigue - Idol Gives Back comes on the heels of a run of high-profile benefit concerts, such as Live Earth and The Concert for Diana - Lythgoe became emotional, excitable, even heated.

Am I worried about it? he said. No, because I believe you either give or you dont give; I dont think you get tired. Its not, Im not going to give this year or Im going to give this year. It depends on how you feel, what you feel your duty is as a citizen of the world.

Organizations: The Muppets, London Weekend Television, Canwest News Service

Geographic location: U.K.

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