TV producer “Nasty” Nigel Lythgoe said reality shows must be “cleverer” with how they present their stars to protect them from online abuse.
Lythgoe, who has been honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, said more needs to be done to combat social media trolling following the high-profile deaths of Love Island contestants Sophie Gradon and Mike Thalassitis, as well as host Caroline Flack.
The man behind shows including Popstars and So You Think You Can Dance said the rise of online platforms was the key difference between now and early reality shows at the turn of the century.
Lythgoe, 72, told the PA news agency: “We are living in an age where you can say what you like on social media – unless your name is Donald Trump – you can say what you like and there are no repercussions because no-one knows who you really are.”
He said TV producers must be wary of how their editing can potentially be damaging.
“We’ve got to take greater care of social media, even more than television,” Lythgoe said. “But television and television producers have got to be aware when they’re editing, just how this will affect (people).”
He added: “You’ve just got to be cleverer with it. You don’t have to expose everything. Most television watchers aren’t stupid. We can realise who the goodie is, who the baddie is.”
US-based Lythgoe, whose Walk of Fame star was unveiled during a ceremony on Friday, was born in St Helens, Merseyside, and grew up in the town of Wallasey.
He started tap dancing aged 11 – something his father, a docker, encouraged.
“It wasn’t like a Billy Elliot story where my dad said, ‘you’ve got to go to boxing’,” Lythgoe said.
He joined the BBC’s The Young Generation dance troupe in 1968 and at age 21 became the choreographer.
He has since worked on more than 500 TV shows, including Morecambe And Wise, The Two Ronnies and Gladiators, as well as with some of the biggest names in showbiz, such as Gene Kelly and Bing Crosby.
Perhaps Lythgoe’s most influential project was Popstars.
The 2001 talent show opened the door to the likes of American Idol and The X Factor, changing TV on both sides of the Atlantic forever.
Emmy Award-winning Lythgoe was a producer and appeared as a judge on Popstars, earning the nickname “Nasty Nigel” thanks to his cutting remarks to the hopefuls.
Infamously, he called Kym Marsh “fat” on TV, a remark the actress and singer later said left her with years of insecurities.
However Lythgoe said Marsh, who was among the show’s winners and who helped form the band Hear’Say, “has lived off that ever since”.
He told PA: “She looks fabulous now and she did shortly after that and she’s had a hell of a good career, really talented girl and every now and again brings out keeps fit videos and blames me.”
Lythgoe – who joked he wanted his Walk of Fame star placed on top of Simon Cowell’s – has his name placed in the pavement at 6258 Hollywood Boulevard.
He was honoured in the category of television with the 2,697th star on the famous Los Angeles tourist attraction.
Lythgoe admitted he was left in disbelief when first told of the honour.
He said: “It was one of those things that you never, ever dreamt of. You know, I’ve had a really good career. I’ve done really well, I came from a low-income family. I’ve done really well.
“But never at any one point, anything that I’ve done, did I ever think, ‘Oh, yeah, what you want now is a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame’. It’s incomprehensible. Never entered my head.”
Asked what he was most proud of over his career, Lythgoe said “my two boys and my five grandkids”, adding giving a platform to talented young people is another standout.
“I have been given the opportunity of giving talented young people a springboard to enhance the opportunity of creating a career,” he said of his talent shows, name-checking some of the stars who graduated from them.
“It doesn’t give them a career. And there are hundreds of kids that are given the springboard that have not got a career out of it. But there are one or two, like the Carrie Underwoods, the Kelly Clarksons, the Adam Lamberts, the tWitchs, that have created careers for themselves out of it, and been exposed and showing their talent.
“Because it’s really difficult nowadays in the arts, to keep people going.”