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"Idol" speculation rife as Fox press tour begins

Six months after Fox brought "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell to Winter TV Press Tour 2010 so 200 TV critics could hear him announce he was leaving the show - and exactly one year after "Idol" judge Paula Abdul announced during Summer TV Press Tour 2009 she was leaving the show because Fox wasn't giving her the same monetary love it was showing Simon and show host Ryan Seacrest -- TV critics are expecting/praying for more "Idol" news Monday at this summer's tour.

Nigel Lythgoe, former "Idol" executive producer. (REUTERS/PHIL McCARTEN)

They don't much care whether the network finally makes it official that Nigel Lythgoe is returning to executive produce the show, that Jennifer Lopez is the new Paula Abdul, that Kara DioGuardi is out, or that taut-faced 60-something Aerosmith front-man Steven Tyler is taking Cowell's place. They just want this train wreck moved along.

Simon Cowell showed up at the winter press tour to announce he was leaving "Idol" to join "X Factor." (REUTERS/MARIO ANZUONI)

Meanwhile, "Idol's" biggest rival, ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" is enjoying the view from its position of stability and strength. The show, which beat "Idol" in the weekly ratings several times this past season, has just cast retired NFL quarterback Kurt Warner to be among next season's competitors, a source with knowledge of the casting tells the TV Column. It's the dance competition's very first NFL quarterback.

While "Dance's" ratings improved this past season, ratings slipped badly on "American Idol," which was won by Lee DeWyze.

DeWyze is the third consecutive safe, beige rocker boy with guitar to win the competition since "Idol" producers and Fox initiated one of the many boneheaded changes to the show that was going to goose its ratings: Allowing competitors to perform with instruments.

Last month, the organizer of the American Idol Live! Tour, which DeWyze headlined, scrubbed seven tour stops.

But the real fun began last week when "Idol" judge Ellen DeGeneres - Paula Abdul's first replacement - announced she had determined she was way too nice, and way too busy with her daytime talk show, to be a judge for a second season.

Almost immediately, word got out that Kara would not be back, even though just this past April she had pulled off a sexy nude spread in Allure magazine which, for women in the entertainment industry, usually leads to the same kind of job security as tenure status in academia.

The changes were said to be somehow connected to the plan to return Lythgoe to the show and his scheme to sweep clean the judge panel.

Lythgoe, who used to executive produce "Idol," is the perfect person to fix the show, having this season concluded an overhaul of Fox's "So You Think You can Dance" competition series - including a format change and the replacement of its noisiest judge Mary Murphy - which resulted in lower ratings for that program.

Last week too, Lopez's name surfaced as a top contender for the seat of Dark-Haired Female Judge, held in turn by Paula and Kara.

J-Lo makes more sense for "Idol" than did Ellen, what with J-Lo having a singing, dancing, and acting career that closely parallels Paula's Has-Been status when Paula first joined "Idol." Ellen, in contrast, has a successful daytime talk show and no music industry background and, based on last season's performance, no ability to push her boundaries.

Nearly simultaneously, word also surfaced of talks between "Idol" producers and Aerosmith lead singer Tyler.

Tyler, of course, has music experience going back more decades than his face would suggest and could potentially give the kind of professional advice to contestants that made Simon's role on the judging panel so critical. That's assuming audiences could get over the shock of watching, week after week, where Simon once sat, a guy who looks like The Joker's little sister.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  August 2, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  "American Idol" , Summer TV Press Tour 2010  | Tags: Aerosmith, American Idol, Jennifer Lopez, Kara DioGuardi, Kurt Warner, Nigel Lythgoe, Paula Abdul, Ryan Seacrest, Simon Cowell, Steven Tyler  
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Next: Fox suits: No "Idol" deals. Seriously. We mean it. For realsers.


Lee was the third "safe" rocker to win? Let's look back and see what really happened. Because only the last two have been safe.

David Cook winning AI7 in 2008 was actually considered an upset. Remember David Archuleta, who was the clear front-runner? Cook was interesting. His song choices and reinventions of them kept hush-hush until performance each week. Cook was hardly the safe bet. Archie was carrying the cute boy vote from the tweens, but couldn't pull off the win.

Kris Allen, while I like him a lot, was a slow build to win. Unfortunately, he beat Adam Lambert, an unbelievable talent, yet a controversial figure. So, I agree with this one. Kris was a safe bet.

And Lee's win was just a shame. Crystal was far more interesting, but didn't seem to care. She also didn't have "the look". Unfortunately for AI9, they lost all the potential stars by the Top 12. Top 24 had some strong potential, as did many who never made it past Hollywood.

Posted by: jljardon2 | August 2, 2010 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Thankfully, Lisa de Moraes watches so we don't have too.

Posted by: Bebunk | August 2, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Who are they trying to kid? Without Simon, American Idol is officially GAME OVER. It was weakened enough last season after Paula's departure (and Ellen only made it worse). They honestly think the show can go back to its former glory without its DEFINING personality, the man who singlehandedly revolutionized TV talent show judging AND TV talent shows in general? The one whom every knockoff show has a cheap imitation of? And to add insult to injury, they want to put Steven Tyler in his place? In Steven's own words, DREAM ON!!!!!!!

Posted by: Barnsinger | August 2, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Pookie, I'm confused. If they don't know who the judges will be, who's at all the auditions now taking place? Will we see tapes of Randy and Kara overseeing the auditions, only to find J-Lo and Steven Tyler (gak!) at the judge's table? This seems poorly managed at best.

Posted by: chantooz | August 3, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

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