Ellen DeGeneres leaves 'American Idol'; rumors fly about replacement judge

Ellen DeGeneres is dancing off 'American Idol' after one season. If Fox's hit show intends to revamp itself to stem a ratings slide, it has the opportunity to bring in two new faces for season 10 in January.
Friday, July 30, 2010

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. 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 an alarming loss of viewers.

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 has brokered a deal to step in and replace Ellen, who in turn had replaced Paula.

For J-Lo, a move to "Idol" would mark a return to the Fox network. Like Paula, J-Lo was a dancer first -- the singer-actress got her big TV break as a backup dancer on the network's sketch comedy show "In Living Color" in the early '90s. Fox declined to comment late Thursday on the report about J-Lo.

Sources say the suits behind the show wanted Ellen gone. On Thursday, they handed her the knife, issuing a statement saying, "Ellen DeGeneres has decided to bow out from her role as a judge on 'American Idol' next season." The statement included a quote from Ellen, which says: "A couple months ago, I let Fox and the 'American Idol' producers know that this didn't feel like the right fit for me."

"We love Ellen and understand and support her decision to bow out of 'Idol,' " Peter Rice, chairman of entertainment, for Fox Networks Group, even said in the announcement.

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

Sources say the exit of Ellen, who survived just one season, 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.

Nigel Lythgoe, who has returned to the show, 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 lineup -- telling pretty much anyone who would listen, including Zap2it.com in 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, about Ellen, Kara, Simon and Randy Jackson.

"It's uncomfortable to watch," Lythgoe said, speaking for us all and 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 "Idol" career on the same day Simon came to Winter TV Press Tour 2010 to announce that he was quitting the show. She was never comfortable performing the responsibilities of an "Idol" judge, and her pre-written gags almost always fell with a thud on performance nights.

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