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Ellen DeGeneres out on "American Idol"; J-Lo in?

[This entry has been updated]

Ellen DeGeneres is out on "American Idol."

DeGeneres will not return as a judge on the hit singing competition series, Fox announced Thursday. And more judge changes are in store as the network tries to stem the show's alarming loss of viewers.


Ellen DeGeneres says farewell to "Idol." (Michael Becker/Fox)

Meanwhile, Jennifer Lopez appears to be the show's new Paula Abdul. J-Lo's career has been on the fast track to nowhere of late and, according to the Web site Deadline.com, she's brokered a deal to step in and replace Ellen, who, in turn, had replaced Paula last season. But some sources said it was not yet a done deal. A Fox rep declined to comment.

For J-Lo, a move to "Idol" would mark a return to the Fox network. Like Paula, J-Lo was a dancer first; she got her big TV break as a back-up dancer on the network's "In Living Color" sketch comedy show in the '90s. Most recently, the singer/dancer/actress appeared in the flick "The Back-Up Plan," which was a far cry from her 1997 starring role in "Selena."

Sources say the suits behind the show were happy with Ellen's exit. On Thursday, they handed her the knife, issuing a statement saying DeGeneres "has decided to bow out from her role as a judge on 'American Idol' next season" which included a quote from Ellen in which she said that a couple of month ago she told Fox and the show's producers she didn't think she was "the right fit" for the show.

The announcement even included a quote from the usually buttoned-down Peter Rice, chairman of entertainment at Fox Networks Group, in which he effused, "We love Ellen and understand and support her decision to bow out of 'Idol'."

However it happened, the good news -- the thing for us to focus on -- is that Ellen is gone. Monday, Fox's day at Summer TV Press Tour 2010, is going to be major with the remaining "Idol" judges' status on everyone's minds, such as they are.

Sources say the swap-out of Ellen, who survived just one season on the show, is not the producers' last move. We already know Simon Cowell is gone, and Kara DioGuardi's contract had not been renewed as of press time.

And Nigel Lythgoe, who has returned to the show in an oversight capacity, had been advocating for a gut job. Lythgoe, who executive produced "Idol" for many years before leaving in summer of '08 to focus exclusively on "So You Think You Can Dance," was no fan of the judging panel.

This past season -- Ellen's first and, as it turns out last, Lythgoe was the show's most outspoken critics, telling pretty much anyone who would listen, including Zap2it.com last April, "I would replace the entire judging panel."

"They don't' have a great deal of chemistry at the moment," he said, stating the obvious, of Randy Jackson, Ellen, Kara, and Simon.

"It's uncomfortable to watch," Lythgoe said, speaking for us all, adding, "Ellen hasn't worked out as well as we would have hoped."

Ellen was a bad fit from the get go. The comic-turned-sitcom-star-turned-daytime-talk- show-host started her new "Idol" judging career on the same day Simon came to Winter TV Press Tour 2010 to announce he was quitting the show.

DeGeneres was never comfortable performing the responsibilities of an "Idol" judge. Cheerleader yes -- judge no, and her pre-written gags almost always fell with a thud on performance nights.

In that interview back in April, Lythgoe blue-skied that if he could get any judge lineup he wanted on "Idol" it would be: Usher, Elton John and Justin Timberlake.

Not coincidentally, their names have all turned up in recent speculation as to who will replace Simon on the singing competition, which has seen its ratings sink dramatically the past couple seasons, though it remains the country's most watched program.

But the latest reports have Steven Tyler front-running the list of possible Simon replacements.

Other pop culture talent who'd been spit-balled as Reporters Who Cover Television played Let's Re-Cast "Idol" included Chris Isaak, Harry Connick Jr., and Jessica Simpson. And, let's not forget Bret Michaels, Howard Stern -- and, of course, Donald Trump .

By Lisa de Moraes  |  July 29, 2010; 8:13 PM ET
Categories:  "American Idol" , TV News  
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Next: Seacrest talks about Ellen's "Idol" exit

Comments

Got to say good choice to dump Ellen. Though I would have loved to see her remain in a capacity she would have been very good at - MC-ing performance nights and sending the slightly creepy Seacrest puppy off to his 20 other jobs.

Don't think the show should go "All Famous Celeb Superstar Judges!!" Because the show should still be a talent show focused on performers, not a panel of judges - people watching focus on contestants, not judges. They expect the judges to be good and entertaining..but no one was tuning in mainly for the 12 seconds of fine Cowell bon mots.
It would be like if the Olympics only had "Superstar female Skaters" on judging panel and professed that it was now only about the Great judges and kept cameras and comments on them vs. the young ladies on ice, and the judges clever reactions mattered more than the performances.

Idol did well when the main focus was on contestants and not on unknown Simon Randy or largely best years behind her Abdul. When they began treating the contestants as just an annual scenery change, did little to promote post Idol Careers and lavished most Idol revenue money on multi-million annual judges and MC pay - the show was on it's way to trouble.

3 Megacelebrities - 3 Times Ellen!! Is not wise. Focus goes further away from performers and audience. Especially if they try a cloning: "Must be a pissy Limey, must have all the "bad kareoke" like lines, must dress in a V-neck, and be vain." There is also the matter of how much a Superstar with money to burn will actually bust butt trying to be involved and show they care.

Posted by: ChrisFord1 | July 29, 2010 9:18 PM | Report abuse

Bababouey!!!

Posted by: 4LaneOxonHillRoad | July 29, 2010 9:20 PM | Report abuse

I disagree, Lisa. I thought Ellen was a wonderful Idol judge. But Kara definitely needs to go.

Posted by: hlef | July 29, 2010 9:20 PM | Report abuse

"Ellen DeGeneres out on 'American Idol'"

Wait...Ellen is gay!!???!!!???!!!

Posted by: gotmce | July 29, 2010 9:23 PM | Report abuse

MC Hammer would make a great judge!

Posted by: whatyoutalkinboutman | July 29, 2010 10:00 PM | Report abuse

The original judging panel was a lot better yes - BUT - the problem with this show is the audience voting as it relates to the current viewership.

You can have audience voting when you have an evenly distributed audience across age and sex and it works (Seasons 1-6)

But as the audience has skewed increasingly more teenage female, everyone else has been increasingly turned off by the "nothing to do with talent" voting.

Last season was the worst with the audience skewing over 70% female. As one commentator put it - there is now 0% chance of another female American Idol until they change the voting format.

So they either need to make it all judged and no call-in or split the male and female contestants into separate voting groups until the final.

Otherwise the show will be gone after next season... which is probably what is going to happen.

Posted by: mac2j | July 29, 2010 10:01 PM | Report abuse

This is like replacing the coach when your football team is playing badly.

Idol has run out of gas: no matter what judges are there, it will never command the interest it once had. Swapping judges, or any other splashy change, will make a little blip as people check out the new setup, But then it will continue its downward trend.

Posted by: rick5 | July 29, 2010 10:21 PM | Report abuse

mac2j: But we did have a female finalist in this past season (or so I heard- not actually watching myself). Even if the audience is overwhelmingly female, somebody must have been casting those votes to put her through.

Posted by: MaxineofArc | July 29, 2010 10:54 PM | Report abuse

Two seasons ago, I quit voting. I still watch it, but I'm more distant because of the voting. The show always makes a big deal about how many millions of calls they got. What a waste of time. It became clear, very clear that it gets screwed with by allowing unlimited, programable software by AT&T,that allows dozen of calls be made in a short amount of time. That's not a contest. If it keeps going like this, the show won't last! People in my age group will stop watching.

Posted by: washingtonstate2008 | July 29, 2010 11:23 PM | Report abuse

Get Bushwick Bill..

Posted by: Gary_3603 | July 29, 2010 11:34 PM | Report abuse

The show was unwatchable for me last year, I missed it all, and I used to see it every week. Simon Cowell, all he knows how to do anymore is pose. He used to be the reason to watch, by last season he was just nothing but a bad actor. As are most of the contestants. Either the contestants are the clowns or the judges are, but not both.

Posted by: kls1 | July 30, 2010 12:15 AM | Report abuse

I like Ellen, but not as a judge on Idol. We all pretty much knew this when they named her as a judge. It is good she is gone.
Kara still unsigned? If Fox does anything, they will leave it that way. She is qualified, but arrogant and unlikeable. Her bikini incident was obsurd not to mention her continued flirting with Cowel. Kara needs the axe.

But Randy needs to stay. Even though last season he was quiter than usual.

Posted by: Indi1 | July 30, 2010 12:23 AM | Report abuse

I watched Idol only a couple of times this past season and Ellen seemed to be uncomfortable when she had to make a decision about a performance. She isn't a judge; she has too much compassion for the job. Jennifer Lopez fits fine or might be too harsh. We can only wait and see. I think her husband, Marc Anthothy, would be perfect for the job.

Posted by: skinfreak | July 30, 2010 12:25 AM | Report abuse

"mac2j: But we did have a female finalist in this past season (or so I heard- not actually watching myself). Even if the audience is overwhelmingly female, somebody must have been casting those votes to put her through.
Posted by: MaxineofArc"

A lot of what went wrong with Idol this year was Diguardio and certain hopefully soon-to-be fired producers OBSESSION about a female having to get to the Final, and it had to be a singer songwriter.
Once they selected Crystal Bowersox and pimped her relentlessly, they started sabotaging the other females - to help clear the way for Crystal. Inc some talented ones with more charisma and entertainment value than Crystal had, especially once all Bowersox's songs started sounding the same.
Lily Scott, Katelyn Epperly, Siobhan Magnus, Didi Benami, and Katie Stevens were normally bashed no matter what they did - while critiques of Crystal no matter what dropped verses, lack of originality, dropped notes - was subjected to judges reviews akin to North Korean generals and Party leaders sort of remarks congratulating Kim il-Jong at his annual bithday celebration.

Posted by: ChrisFord1 | July 30, 2010 12:28 AM | Report abuse

I actually like Ellen as a Judge. I can't stand Kara and I believe P. Diddy would be great as a Judge. I'm actually becoming very tired and bored with the talent that has ended up in the top 10. Perhaps a new set of judges would open up a new standard....

Posted by: maehenrie | July 30, 2010 12:42 AM | Report abuse

Cancel the show. It has lost most of its steam. The winners go on to perform at the Grand Openings of Taco Bells.

Posted by: rcvinson64 | July 30, 2010 12:51 AM | Report abuse

Some one please remind me - why is Ellen DeGeneres popular?

Posted by: pgr88 | July 30, 2010 1:31 AM | Report abuse

Who cares? Can't wait for this show to be cancelled. It is long overdue.

Posted by: georgana | July 30, 2010 1:34 AM | Report abuse

Please, please: Let's replace Randy with Raaaaaandy!

NSFW:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3R-9D2O6-ss

Posted by: molsonmich | July 30, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

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