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After Removal From So You Think You Can Dance’s Judges Panel, Nigel Lythgoe Hints At His Feelings About Returning

Nigel Lythgoe on So You Think You Can Dance.
(Image credit: Fox)

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: 

Thank you to all my family, friends and #SYTYCD fans for my Happy Birthday wishes. I’ll have to wait until next year when hopefully my birthday wish will come true. I wonder if you can guess what it is?

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.

Heidi Venable
Heidi Venable

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.