UPDATE: TMZ is reporting that Kara DioGuardi has been fired from "Idol" and we'll come out of all this with a three-judge panel that consists of Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler.
I'm not terribly surprised by news that Ellen DeGeneres is leaving "American Idol." I'm more concerned about how producers will fill her seat.
Once the news broke, a Deadline Hollywood report said Jennifer Lopez will take DeGeneres' place. "American Idol" executives have not confirmed the report.
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Let's face it: DeGeneres was a poor match for "Idol" from the start. During the live shows, she sat through the episodes nervously, often wearing a pained expression. (Considering the caliber of last season's talent, it's not a surprising offense.)
When DeGeneres spoke, she often simply regurgitated another judge's comments -- or worse, compared a contestant to a type of food.
Sure, DeGeneres is funny and compassionate. But she just didn't offer the uniqueness required to sustain a show already accused of monotony.
So now we're about five months away from the "American Idol" Season 10 premiere and two judges' seats are vacant. Spots for Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi remain intact -- for now. DioGuardi reportedly has a year-to-year contract, however.
Simon Cowell's vacant seat has generated lots of speculation, with rumored "American Idol" judge candidates ranging from Jessica Simpson to Courtney Love.
Some sources say an announcement about Cowell's replacement could be made Monday. DeGeneres' official replacement is still uncertain.
Earlier this week, rumors surfaced that Nigel Lythgoe -- currently of "So You Think You Can Dance" -- might return to "Idol" as executive producer. He's previously said he'd consider replacing the entire panel of judges.
Here's another idea: How about not replacing DeGeneres at all? Let's go back to the three-judge format.
Having four judges already takes too much time. To allow for judges' comments, episodes are often ill-proportioned and run the risk of going overtime.
Even with the most insightful panel of judges, most performances only allow for so much feedback.
There are the phenomenal ones, when everybody offers some version of "great." There are the poor ones, when everybody offers some version of "bad." And there's everything in between, which puts us on the murky level that often generates incoherent analogies.
Beginning with the addition of DioGuardi as a fourth judge in Paula Abdul's days, "Idol" has already become too much about the judges and not enough about the contestants.
Things might be different if we didn't have the looming "who will replace Simon Cowell" inquiry.
Yet that search alone has downplayed the show's search for hidden talent and replaced it with a star-studded roster of potential celebrity judges.
When she auditioned for the show, original "American Idol" champ Kelly Clarkson stood out by briefly switching places with one of the "Idol" judges.
It reminded viewers of the boldness required from "Idol" contestants, and the lack of pretension required from the judges.
Let's revisit that focus before the search for a superstar becomes the search for a superstar judge.