What The “Idol” Shakeup Means For You

Surely you woke up to the EARTH SHATTERING news this morning that Ellen DeGeneres is leaving “American Idol” after just one season. Taking Ellen’s place (spiritually, it’s still really Paula Abdul’s place) will be original superstar hyphenate Jennifer Lopez. Ah, but that’s not all. Nikki Finke and Nellie Andreeva at Deadline say there are unconfirmed reports of two other major moves to the panel:

Tonight, unconfirmed reports say Idol has offered Cowell's judge seat to Steven Tyler. 3RD UPDATE: And another unconfirmed report claimed judge Kara DioGuardi has been fired to bring the panel count down to just 3, not 4.

It was earlier this week that producer Nigel Lythgoe returned to the Fox hit, and word was he was keen on completely revamping the judging panel and cutting it back down to three judges. Looks like Lythgoe is about to get his wish. It’s amazing to think that the judging panel at “Idol” used to be so stable, or as stable as anything involving Paula Abdul could be. You had Randy and Paula and Simon, and that was it. A self-contained little universe. Then Fox brought in DioGuardi for reasons that continue to baffle the free world. Then Paula quit. Then Simon quit, but not before sleepwalking through one more season. Then Ellen came aboard.

Now the “Idol” judging panel feels about as stable as the old Monday Night Football announcers booth. However Lopez and perhaps Tyler end up faring as judges, I bet you anything this isn’t the last time the show will bring in new superstars to evaluate the nation’s foremost amateur wedding singers. Lopez, to me, has always been a performer who had little going for her beyond superficial appeal. She won’t be as loopy as Paula. Not even close. She’s done the show before, and won praise for being warm and candid. But that’s not enough for “Idol.” Simon brought the nasty. Paula brought the loopy. Lopez brings neither.

Which is why the potential addition of Tyler may end up making or breaking this show. With Simon starting his own show this fall, “Idol” will need some way of making headlines on a weekly basis. Tyler can’t go three seconds in any conversation without scat singing and opening his mouth as wide as humanly possible. So really, his job will be to replace Paula’s sorely missed loopiness. Lopez will have to have more of an edge than she had in her guest spot, since her job will be to replace Simon’s pragmatism. Randy’s job will be to sit there and say nothing useful.

Will this all make for a more entertaining “Idol?” Will the show be able to recapture the popularity of its heyday? Probably not. But a show like “Idol” is really only as good as its contestants, which means if Fox is serious about keeping this show afloat, they’ll spend as much time trying to find good singers as they did cobbling together this new panel. J-Lo won’t kill this show, but another Lee DeWyze will.

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