So You Think You Can Dance flipped the script on the judges panel for its long-awaited return to Fox for Season 17. Co-creator Nigel Lythgoe had been the only permanent judge for the dance competition's first 16 seasons, but when the show was revived after two years post-COVID, it was done so with three fresh faces behind the table. At the time, Lythgoe expressed sadness over the decision, and with Season 17 in full gear, he again indicated how he’d feel about returning.
Despite being removed from the judges panel this season, Nigel Lythgoe has remained faithful to the show he created with Simon Fuller back in 2005, regularly tweeting support for the dancers, as well as the judges who currently reside on the panel — tWitch, JoJo Siwa and Leah Remini. A recent post on Twitter, however, made it look like he may still be holding out hope for a return appearance himself, when he thanked followers for well-wishes on his birthday. He said:
Fans, of course, guessed that Nigel Lythgoe’s birthday wish was to be back on So You Think You Can Dance, and to that, he responded with a simple smiley face emoji.
It makes complete sense that Nigel Lythgoe would still be interested in returning to the show. He was originally announced to be judging Season 17 with Mary Murphy and Laurieann Gibson, before the long hiatus and eventual decision to skew for a younger audience.
Fans actually thought he might get his chance to come back, after Glee alum Matthew Morrison was fired for not following competition production protocols when he apparently contacted one of the contestants outside the show. It was Leah Remini, however, who got the call — not Nigel Lythgoe — and she made her SYTYCD premiere on the competition's milestone 300th episode.
It has not been an easy road for the new judges of Season 17. Lifelong dancer JoJo Siwa has fought off critics who said she’s not qualified enough to serve on the panel, and Stephen “tWitch” Boss — who was runner-up of SYTYCD Season 4 — has responded to fans’ critiques about the dancers who were being chosen to compete. The elimination process has changed this season as well, and for the first time, the dancers who advance in the competition are being chosen by the in-studio audience and judges, rather than the viewing audience at home.
Only time will tell if Nigel Lythgoe’s birthday wish will come true, as well as whether or not this season will dictate further changes to So You Think You Can Dance’s format — should it get renewed for Season 18, that is. Check out new episodes at 9 p.m. ET Wednesdays on Fox, or catch up on this season so far, with the first eight episodes available for streaming with a Hulu subscription.
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Heidi Venable is a Content Producer for CinemaBlend, a mom of two and a hard-core '90s kid. She started freelancing for CinemaBlend in 2020 and officially came on board in 2021. Her job entails writing news stories and TV reactions from some of her favorite prime-time shows like Grey's Anatomy and The Bachelor. She graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a degree in Journalism and worked in the newspaper industry for almost two decades in multiple roles including Sports Editor, Page Designer and Online Editor. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.