Paula Abdul Is Leaving 'Idol' -- and This Time She Really Means It

By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, August 5, 2009

PASADENA, Calif., Aug. 4 One day after the producers of "American Idol" and Fox network announced that Kara DioGuardi had signed on to ret urn to the show next season, "Idol" judge Paula Abdul wrote on her "verified" Twitter account that she's stepping off the "Idol" gravy train.

"With sadness in my heart, I've decided not to return to 'Idol,' " read tweets posted Tuesday night on Abdul's account. "I'll miss nurturing all the new talent, but most of all I'll [miss] being a part of a show that I helped from day1 become an international phenomenon.

"What I want to say most, is how much I appreciate the undying support and enormous love that you have showered upon me. It truly has been breathtaking, especially over the past month."

Reached for comment, Fox network and the show's producers, FremantleMedia North America and 19 Entertainment, issued a statement saying: "Paula Abdul has been an important part of the 'American Idol' family over the last eight seasons and we are saddened that she has decided not to return to the show. While Paula will not be continuing with us, she's a tremendous talent and we wish her the best."

Abdul had been making about $4 mill a year as a judge and reportedly had tried to up that to $20 million in current talks; last word was that she was seeking about $12 mill.

Judge Simon Cowell recently struck a new deal that reportedly will pay him about $45 million. Heck, even show host Ryan Seacrest scored $30 million over three years for hosting, and half again as much in his new pact for merchandising rights to his mug.

Randy Jackson is amid a deal, so he's back. Tuesday night's news takes the show back to its original three-judge format, but with the third judge being DioGuardi, about whom fans have been lukewarm at best, replacing "Idol's" wacky den-mother ratings magnet.

"American Idol" is the country's most watched TV show, but this past season its ratings slipped noticeably in spite of -- or because of -- the addition of DioGuardi, who was supposed to breathe new life into the series. Instead, her addition mostly resulted in some historic time overruns on the music competition, which left producers scrambling to find a way to keep Kara quieter.

"Idol" auditions are scheduled to begin in just a few weeks.

Fox is going to have a lot of 'splaining to do to the country's TV critics Thursday at the press tour.

Emmys Wake-Up Call

Hotted-up TV critics, ready to rumble with this year's Primetime Emmy Awards producer Don Mischer, got hit in the face with a wallop of wake-up-and-smell-the-ratings.

With the best of intentions, the critics attending Summer TV Press Tour 2009 have been chest-thumping about Mischer and the TV Academy ever since Emmy bestowers unveiled plans to bestow less airtime to some categories in order to add more bells and whistles that might attract some actual viewers.

Egging on critics are various industry guilds that have issued crisp, stern statements signed by more than a hundred Hollywood Hotshots equally knicker-knotted about the planned changes -- riveting "We the undersigned" stuff.

Only 12.2 million people watched last year's Emmycast -- a record low. This is not terribly surprising, given that the Emmys each year more closely resembles the defunct CableAce Awards. Cable now dominates the movie, miniseries and drama series derbies. But trophy shows as an entire genre are suffering similar ratings fates, as Mischer came to the tour to explain to critics.

"I'm telling you guys, the writing is on the wall and every other awards show knows it, and every other award show is starting to take action," he said ominously, taking a lot of the wind out of the TV critics' outrage.

The TV Academy did extensive research after last year's broadcast and learned that potential viewers had not tuned in because "they felt the Emmys featured shows that mainstream viewers did not know and were not interested in," Mischer explained.

Here's how Mischer's plan would work: Emmy-show attendees would have to show up slightly earlier than in the past, though they still would still spend less time in their seats than those poor souls who attend the Academy Awards, which can drone on forever -- once it even ran into the next day.

Shortly before the live Emmycast begins, the wins would be handed out in eight of the whopping 28 categories with which the Emmycast is saddled. Then, while the live show is starting up, Mischer's team would quickly edit the boring bits out of those eight categories. And by "boring bits" we mean the traditional walk-to-the-stage; the traditional reading of the list of agents, managers, studio suits and publicists who had made the winner's career so brilliant; and the traditional walk-off-the-stage.

Trimmed of these mind-numbing moments -- it's called "time-shifting" -- the categories would then air during the Emmy broadcast you see at home. Mischer thinks he can save about 15 minutes of the three-hour orgy of trophy dispensing.

CW's 'Beautiful' Mess

CW might be the cool posse of broadcast TV, but when it comes to dealing with the media, CW is Total Protect-the-Investment Old School.

It's not often that there's a star of a new broadcast TV series whose résumé includes a DUI and time in rehab -- and who gets slapped in involuntary psychiatric care at Los Angeles's Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after a reported breakdown, just days before production on said new series is scheduled to start revving up.

Drawing that short straw: CW's new "The Beautiful Life" and the actress: Mischa Barton.

The former "O.C." star reportedly returned to work on "Be autiful Life" just 12 days after being released from the hospital; she'd been placed under involuntary psychiatric care in mid-July.

Days after that, TV critics are gathered for Summer TV Press Tour 2009 and it's time for a Q&A session with CW programming chief Dawn Ostroff.

"I assume you are concerned about Mischa Barton's health," one critic asked Ostroff.

Nope. "It didn't come up," Ostroff said. "We were just concerned she be ready for production. She was. It was not an issue. She's started work. There have been no issues."

In the new show, about hot young newbies trying to get a break in the New York supermodeling scene, the 23-year-old Barton -- who, along with other cast-mates, was absent from the Q&A -- plays a supermodel with a substance abuse problem who is fighting to hang on to her career. We'd call it typecasting but that would be cruel.

Production on "Beautiful Life" was put off for days after Barton's hospitalization; CW insisted it was caused by "unfinished sets." Okay, maybe CW is cutting-edge when it comes to dealing with the media, because we had never heard that one before.

"Recent pictures show Mischa much heavier. Will that be included in storylines?" one critic asked. In fairness to that critic, dodging that first question was like dangling kittens in front of alligators.

"No. She looks great," Ostroff said. Really, what did you expect her to say?

"We're not making any cast changes . . . the cast is the cast," said executive producer and former male model Ashton Kutcher, looking at an inquiring critic as if he would prefer not to have to look at him at all, but if he had to see the critic, he would have liked to do so after said critic had been run over by a truck.

Finally, one extremely brave critic asked about the status of the "Mischa situation." "Mischa is in New York today working on the show," said Kutcher, giving a new critic that same look.

The wonderful thing about having Barton in the s how, Kutcher said, was that the rest of the cast is so very young, and Barton has been around the block, having done "O.C." before this, so he's counting on her to provide "navigation and guidance" to the younger cast members.

Oh, yes, he really did. And no one snickered. They did not dare.

When the reckless critic noted there had been reports of pre-production complications resulting from Barton's involuntary confinement at Cedars, Kutcher shot back: "She was never unavailable for a day of work."

And that, pookie, is a Hollywood suit Protecting His Investment.

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