Idol judges aren’t idle
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.