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Idol's head Brit wants no part of "Brit"

Idol exec. producer Nigel Lythgoe and ever-dazed Britney Spears

Another window of opportunity has at least temporarily closed for the sad spectacle known as Britney Spears. American Idol doesn't want her in its upcoming seventh season as either a performer or celebrity "mentor."

"I would have had Britney Spears last year for sure," the show's executive producer, Nigel Lythgoe, said in a teleconference with TV critics Thursday. "Britney at this moment in time I don't think is well enough to do anything. And I think she needs looking after rather than pushing herself in front of a camera . . . She needs taking care of right now."

Idol obviously will do quite well without her when the Fox mega-hit returns on Jan. 15th. But Lythgoe's dismissal of Spears spiced a one-hour session that didn't exactly hum with quotable quotes. Lythgoe is too canny to cough up too much. But here a few other munchies:

***Dallas was one of seven cities hosting auditions this year, but San Diego "by far" yielded the best talent. Philadelphia will be "one of the first cities" shown on-camera. Otherwise "we're still editing" the order of appearances, Lythgoe says.

***Tone-deaf goofballs with no chance of going to Hollywood again will get heavy exposure in the early going. It's the "cirque du lack-of-talent" in Lythgoe's view. "It's all part of the fun at the fair."

***Some hopefuls, including three that Lythgoe expects to make the final 12, played instruments during their vocals. That may be the end of it, but "we're open-minded at the moment," he said. "We're not closing the door on it."

***Idol "got carried away" with celebrity mentors last season, and didn't spend enough time on the backgrounds of contestants, he says. That will be remedied.

***Judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson remain "childish, pitiful, the same as every year." And that's reassuring to see, Lythgoe says. "I wouldn't dream of changing any one of them."

***The show's "biggest jerkwad," a term introduced by a Chicago critic, was "the kid who made all the allegations about Paula," says Lythgoe. "It was just a whole sort of nasty bit." He's referring to Corey Clark, who told ABC's 20/20 that he had an affair with Abdul during the course of Idol's second season. Fox supposedly investigated the matter, and turned up nothing.

***Fifth season champ Taylor Hicks "brought a performance and fun to the table in a year where I think America may have made a mistake," Lythgoe says. "Because (Chris) Daughtry was really the musical star of that year . . . But mistakes are made."

***Idol has a resident psychotherapist who briefly counsels contestants after they've been cut from the show. Essentially they're told, "It's only a television show," says Lythgoe.

***He says that three of the new season's "absolutely brilliant" contenders are 16-and-17-year-olds. Hmm, one of Lythgoe's big favorites last season was 16-year-old Baylie Brown of Krum, TX, who made it to Hollywood but got bounced after forgetting lyrics during a preliminary round. Cowell called her "Commercial with a Capital C." Surely she tried again.

***Four Idol alum, Daughtry, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson (in a duet with Reba McEntire) are among the latest Grammy Award nominees. Lythgoe says that's nice, but "we are only a television program, and a great way to show your face to America."