Nigel Lythgoe is stepping down from both on-camera and production roles on So You Think You Can Dance, the British producer and TV personality announced on Jan. 5 in a statement. His departure comes a week after Paula Abdul (who was a judge on So You Think You Can Dance, as well as the Lythgoe-produced American Idol), accused him of sexual assault in a Dec. 29 lawsuit. Lythgoe has denied the allegations.
Lythgoe, who co-created the show with Simon Fuller, served as one of So You Think You Can Dance’s on-camera judges from its debut in 2005 until 2019. He was absent from the panel during the 2022 season, but planned to return for the series’ upcoming season, scheduled to begin in March.
“I have informed the producers of So You Think You Can Dance of my decision to step back from participating in this year’s series,” Lythgoe said in the statement. “I did so with a heavy heart but entirely voluntarily because this great program has always been about dance and dancers, and that’s where its focus needs to remain. In the meantime, I am dedicating myself to clearing my name and restoring my reputation.”
In a separate statement, production companies 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions said: “19 Entertainment, Dick Clark Productions and Fox can confirm the upcoming season of So You Think You Can Dance will proceed, although without Nigel Lythgoe, to ensure the show remains committed to the contestants, who have worked incredibly hard for the opportunity to compete on our stage. No decision has been made as to a replacement judge for this season.”
According to Variety, Fuller’s 19 Entertainment (which produces So You Think You Can Dance, as well as American Idol), is conducting an investigation into Lythgoe in light of the accusations.
In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles on Dec. 29, Abdul alleged that Lythgoe attempted to force himself on the singer on two separate occasions — once during her tenure on American Idol, and again while she was working on So You Think You Can Dance years later — and later groped one of her assistants.
The lawsuit claims: “For years, Abdul has remained silent about the sexual assaults and harassment she experienced on account of Lythgoe due to fear of speaking out against one of the most well-known producers of television competition shows who could easily break her career as a television personality and of being ostracized and blackballed by an industry that had a pattern of protecting powerful men and silencing survivors of sexual assault.”
Lythgoe later denied the lawsuit’s accusations, saying: “not only are they false, they are deeply offensive to me and to everything I stand for.”
Lythgoe was also the subject of a subsequent lawsuit filed on Jan. 2 by former contestants of the Lythgoe-produced competition show All American Girl, which aired for a single season in 2003. Two unidentified plaintiffs alleged that Lythgoe had attempted to force himself upon them during the show’s production.