Idol judges aren’t idle

Herald Sun - Switched On - - OUT OF THE BOX - BILL KEVENEY

PAULA’S gone. Si­mon’s go­ing. Ellen’s ar­rived on the scene. Amer­i­can Idol’s ninth sea­son has more fo­cus on the mu­si­cal-chairs judg­ing panel than con­tes­tants try­ing to crack pop star­dom.

All the chat­ter about judges — in­clud­ing eight celebrity guest ar­biters dur­ing the au­di­tions — has cre­ated early and per­haps help­ful buzz for a long-run­ning se­ries that has suf­fered some au­di­ence losses de­spite re­main­ing US TV’s dom­i­nant rat­ings power.

The de­par­ture of orig­i­nal judge Paula Ab­dul and the im­mi­nent ar­rival of her suc­ces­sor, talk-show host and co­me­dian Ellen DeGeneres, is Idol’s big­gest change.

At sea­son’s end it will also have to con­tend with Si­mon Cow­ell leav­ing the show to start a ver­sion of his singing com­pe­ti­tion show, The X Fac­tor, next year.

Ab­dul — who tweeted good­bye last sum­mer— has been re­placed dur­ing the first four weeks of au­di­tion shows in Bos­ton and At­lanta by celeb guests Vic­to­ria Beck­ham and Mary J. Blige.

DeGeneres has joined Cow­ell, Randy Jack­son and Kara DioGuardi dur­ing Idol’s Hol­ly­wood round.

‘‘It’s more than a comedic part,’’ DeGeneres says. ‘‘If there’s some­thing funny, I think I’ll add hu­mour to it. If it’s not funny, I’ll just talk about what I liked or didn’t like.

‘‘I’m go­ing to be hon­est, and I’m go­ing to be looking for some­body who’s spe­cial and who try to set them­selves apart.’’

Cow­ell says his exit won’t harm the show: ‘‘Whether I’m on it or off it, I prom­ise you — and I re­ally mean it — I think the show will flour­ish without me. I gen­uinely do.

‘‘I’m very grate­ful. I’ve had the best ex­pe­ri­ence in my life since I’ve been on this show. I hadn’t spent that much time in Amer­ica. I re­ally like work­ing in Amer­ica. I like the Amer­i­can peo­ple, so I feel very at home there.’’

The Ab­dul-DeGeneres judg­ing change could re­fresh the show, es­pe­cially if DeGeneres is a good spar­ring part­ner for Cow­ell, Shari Anne Brill of me­dia agency Carat says.

‘‘I re­ally don’t see it (Ab­dul’s ab­sence) af­fect­ing the show, as long as the judg­ing dy­namic is good,’’ she says. Amer­i­can Idol, PG Fox8, Wed­nes­day, 7.30pm US search for a star Du­ra­tion: 1 hour

The de­par­ture of Ab­dul — who had been on Idol with Cow­ell, Jack­son and host Ryan Seacrest from the start — marks the big­gest change yet to a for­mula that has re­sulted in the most pop­u­lar se­ries in the US of the past 10 years.

Judges and pro­duc­ers say Ab­dul — known for her un­fail­ing em­pa­thy and un­pre­dictable na­ture — will be missed.

‘‘I look across the ta­ble and go, ‘Where’s my girl at?’ ’’ Jack­son says. ‘‘You miss your good friend, but she’s off do­ing her thing.’’

DioGuardi, who joined last sea­son, says she took on some of Ab­dul’s sup­port­ive role dur­ing the au­di­tions, try­ing to buf­fer the blow for some of the poorer per­form­ers.

‘‘It’s a dif­fer­ent show without her,’’ Cow­ell says.

‘‘I’ve gone on record say­ing how close I am to Paula, even though we used to fight. But like we say, the show goes on.’’

Judg­ment: Paula Ab­dul is out, but Ellen DeGeneres (right) joins Si­mon Cow­ell.

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