Paula Abdul AWOL From 'Idol' Panel

American Idolators Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul (putting up a brave front) and Simon Cowell with Jay Leno on Monday.
American Idolators Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul (putting up a brave front) and Simon Cowell with Jay Leno on Monday. (Nbc Via Getty Images)

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By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, January 18, 2006

PASADENA, Calif., Jan. 17

Not one to waste a minute, Paula Abdul dove into her next "American Idol" kerfuffle before the show even debuted Tuesday night, standing up a couple hundred critics and reporters, the show's executive producers and her fellow judges -- who then hung her out to dry.

It's the most fun we've had yet at Winter TV Press Tour 2006.

"We did just get a call; Paula Abdul has an eye infection. She is on the way to the doctor and hopes to join us tonight" at the Fox party, network press relations guru Joe Early announced at the end of the Q&A session with programming chief Peter Liguori.

Critics hissed.

Surviving "Idol" panelists took the stage: exec producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick, host Ryan Seacrest and judges Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson, who'd been with Abdul her evening before when they'd taped an appearance on NBC's "Tonight" show, where she looked just fine Monday night. (That taping happened right before Abdul taped an appearance on Ellen DeGeneres's syndicated show. It aired Tuesday -- and she looked just fine.)

Almost immediately, Jackson and Cowell began to verbally wink at critics, as if to say "This is not our lie; we're not lifting this lie, we have no investment in this lie -- we're too busy with our own lies."

One critic said, "I'm concerned about Paula. Did something happen to her eye last night after she left 'The Tonight Show'?"

"It fell out?" Cowell suggested helpfully.

"She had to put it back in," Jackson added.

"We don't want to spread any rumors here," Cowell said.

When a critic asked about one of the debut episode's stranger contestants, exec producer Warwick noted that the guy "rolled his eyes up . . . like he was having a seizure."


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