Randy Jackson and Ryan Seacrest (MARIO ANZUONI/REUTERS)

“We love Ryan. I can’t imagine the show without him. He’s an enormous part of the show -- our expectation is he’s going to be on the show as long as we can get him,” Fox reality programming guru Mike Darnell chimed in during the “Idol” Q&A panel at the Langham hotel in Pasadena.

Meanwhile, Seacrest said he can’t comment on talks he’s having with NBC Universal which, according to published reports, include discussions about participating in NBC’s morning infotainment show “Today.”

“I have a deal with NBC Universal,” said Seacrest, who works for their E! cable network. “We’re negotiating in terms of what I’m going to do. I already work there.”

Accepting Seacrest brush-off as his final word of the Q&A, TV critics moved on their favorite “Idol” subject: still wondering why only guys keep winning “Idol” when women used to have their share of wins — Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood, Jordan Sparks.

Here’s how it works: guy viewers were the first to migrate away from the show. Tweener and middle aged chicks vote for guy singers — especially if they have large soulful eyes and pettable hair. Hence, the David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze years.

Or, as “Idol” judge Randy Jackson explained it at the press tour Sunday, “Look at the success of Justin Bieber — there are a lot of girls that vote for boys. It’s just what happens, you know what I mean?”

Critics also asked Darnell to explain to them the difference between “Idol” and Simon Cowell’s “The X Factor,” which wrapped its first season on Fox in November. These were apparently critics who did not actually watch “X Factor.”

Anyway, Mike explained, patiently, that “X Factor” is over the top, campy, and louder. “The biggest difference: [‘Idol’] is a phenomenon.”

At which point exec producer Ken Warwick jumped in to add the important point that “Idol” produces recording stars whereas, to date, other singing competitions have not. In order to make his theory work he had to sort of dismiss Leona Lewis, the multi-platinum selling 2006 “X Factor” UK winner, as a kind of five-minute wonder.

“You guys love that quote!” “Idol” judge Jennifer Lopez shrieked as the TV critics madly began to tweet Warwick’s line.

Another critic noted that, with the exception of last May’s “Idol” winner Scotty McCreery, the winning talent on all singing competition shows – “Idol” included – have not done so well, whereas the judges on this show, and NBC’s “The Voice” have reaped great rewards in record sales from their participation in the competions. (earlier, “Idol” judge Steven Tyler had boasted that “Aerosmith” music sales shot up 260 percent since he joined the singing show last season, adding, “One hand washes the other – it’s all been good.” )

“The judges are doing very well-- the talent, not so much,” the critic said, wondering if this wasn’t a “fundamental problem” with singing competition shows.

“The record business is really in the toilet,” Randy Jackson concluded. “It is, I mean, honestly!”