Nigel Lythgoe Nigel Lythgoe

After a couple of seasons were the backstage drama eclipsed the onscreen suspense, American Idol is finally back to being fun, says executive producer Nigel Lythgoe.

"It's a whole different atmosphere now," he told TV Guide Magazine at the 7th Annual Gala benefiting the Alfred E. Mann Foundation. "Everything is so positive. I think the last couple of years, because everyone was always so worried about ratings and Simon going or Simon not going, it ceased being fun."

With the addition of Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez to the judges' panel, Lythgoe is reminded of the original dynamics between Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson.

"I love three [judges] first off, and I think the chemistry is great in comparison to where it went [in the last few seasons]," he says. "Randy's come out of the shadows, I'm really happy with Randy. Randy is Simon Cowell now. Stephen is a lot of fun. And Jennifer just cares. She is like Paula with the caring but she's a little tougher."

Although reports of feuding between Lopez and Ryan Seacrest have already hit the internet, Lythgoe laughs off any rumors about the two not getting along. "I say that Jennifer can flutter her eyelashes and Ryan can't so he's madly jealous about that, and she wears a different pair of shoes every day which are fantastic and Ryan's only got one pair so that's why the feuding started." Though there's evidently no backstage drama, the exec says he's quite happy to keep the chatter going. "I honestly don't know who's making this up but we're keeping it going. I'm all for it," he says. "If were not in the news there something wrong."

Subscribe to TV Guide Magazine now!