Ellen passes judg­ment

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY LYNN ELBER

Fel­low judge Kara DioGuardi lauds Ellen DeGeneres as

Amer­i­can Idol judge, down­plays feud ru­mours.

LOS AN­GE­LES — Ellen DeGeneres’ de­but on Amer­i­can Idol drove up rat­ings for the singing con­test and drew praise from fel­low judge Kara DioGuardi.

“Ellen brought a sense of hu­mour, of course, but I think she knows more about mu­sic than you think she does,” DioGuardi told a tele­con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day, adding, “I think she did an in­cred­i­ble job for her first time here.”

While de­clin­ing to com­pare DeGeneres to her pre­de­ces­sor, Paula Ab­dul, DioGuardi said the co­me­dian and talk show host showed she can as­sess a con­tes­tant’s star qual­ity and tal­ent and still be kind.

DioGuardi, who is in her sec­ond year as an Idol judge, said that spec­u­la­tion about ten­sion on the set be­tween DeGeneres and fel­low judge Si­mon Cow­ell is un­founded. “I think you have to take any ru­mour you hear about

Amer­i­can Idol with a grain of salt. They’re usu­ally not true,” DioGuardi said. “Last year, it was Kara and Paula fight­ing, hate each other. . . . Th­ese things are just ridicu­lous.”

The judges are there to “do one thing, that’s to find the great­est con­tes­tant, Amer­i­can

Idol win­ner, we can find. That’s what the fo­cus is. I know Ellen and Si­mon both take that se­ri­ously,” she said.

DeGeneres joined the show Tues­day for the first round of “Hol­ly­wood Week,” the postau­di­tion phase in which 181 con­tes­tants will be nar­rowed down to 24 semi­fi­nal­ists.

Al­though quick-wi tt ed DeGeneres was ex­pected to be a match for the acer­bic Cow­ell, there was a lack of on-air fire­works be­tween the new col­leagues. She teased him about his planned de­par­ture — “So this is it, huh? I come on, you leave” — and he teas­ingly called her a “sadist” when she toyed with con­tes­tants about their fate.

Amer­i­can Idol, which has long reigned as TV’s No. 1 se­ries but has seen view­er­ship slip, got a wel­come ninth-sea­son rat­ings boost from DeGeneres’ de­but.

View­er­ship was up by dou­ble-dig­its over last Tues­day’s episode among to­tal view­ers (12 per cent) and the ad­ver­tiser-favoured young adult au­di­ence (10 per cent), ac­cord­ing to pre­lim­i­nary Nielsen Co. fig­ures. Next to the sea­son pre­miere, DeGeneres’ first show was the sec­ond-high­est rated of the sea­son among both groups of view­ers.

Rat­ings also rose com­pared to last sea­son’s first Hol­ly­wood week episode, up by four per cent among to­tal view­ers, at least one per cent among young adults and by eight per cent among teenagers.

The last fig­ure is sig­nif­i­cant given that Idol has seen an in­evitable rat­ings slide as it ages and must at­tract new and younger view­ers to hold or re­verse course.

When Fox an­nounced last year that DeGeneres, who lacks for­mal mu­si­cal ex­pe­ri­ence, would be the new judge, fans were di­vided over the un­likely re­place­ment for the sweet, emo­tional Ab­dul. The pop singer had judged Idol since it de­buted in 2002 and left amid con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions af­ter the eighth sea­son ended last year.

An­other change is com­ing when Cow­ell, a mu­sic in­dus­try ex­ec­u­tive and TV pro­ducer, leaves af­ter this sea­son to launch a U.S. ver­sion of his Bri­tish tal­ent show, The X Fac­tor, on Fox. DioGuardi was asked dur­ing the tele­con­fer­ence to com­ment on Howard Stern, whose name has been floated as a pos­si­ble re­place­ment for Cow­ell. “I don’t know that he (Stern) has a mu­si­cal back­ground or any kind of mu­sic any­thing. If you’re go­ing to re­place Si­mon, you’ve got to have that back­ground” and know how to groom singers, DioGuardi said.

Other names have been men­tioned as pos­si­ble Cow­ell re­place­ments, in­clud­ing ac­tor-singer Jamie Foxx and mu­sic ex­ec­u­tives Tommy Mot­tola, Guy Oseary and Jimmy Iovine. Fox and the show’s pro­duc­ers have de­clined com­ment on the con­tenders and said their choice won’t be an­nounced any time soon.

Ellen DeGeneres

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