Editor's note: Join CNN throughout the "American Idol" season as Lisa Respers France blogs live during the performance and result shows at The Marquee Blog.
(CNN) -- The success of "American Idol" hasn't just been about the singing talent.
As much as viewers tuned in to rally behind their favorite performer, they also came for the chemistry between the judges. That helped elevate the show beyond just a search for America's next music star.
Never has the importance of that dynamic been more evident than in Season Nine, which has plenty of fans sharing a common complaint: "We miss Paula."
"I think the chemistry they had before with the judges is really affecting the show this season," said Lindsay Powers, staff editor with US Weekly and an "Idol" fan.
"What Paula brought to the show was not only someone with a musical background, but also very endearing, compassionate, goofy and funny. Just like people tuned in to see what mean thing Simon would say, they would also tune in to see the whacky thing that Paula was going to say each week."
And Abdul gave them plenty of whacky to deal with --from sometimes appearing to be in a fog to outright losing track of what was happening. In one case, she complimented a contestant on his second song when he had only sung once.
Such shenanigans probably wouldn't have been as embraced by fans as they were with a giggle and "Oh Paula" except that the original cast of judges for "American Idol" was so well-balanced.
There was Simon Cowell, a former A&R executive with an eye and ear for talent; musician Randy Jackson, who had jammed with such superstars as Mariah Carey and Journey; and Abdul, a huge pop sensation during the 1980s and a sought-after choreographer.
The trio comfortably occupied their stations with Cowell offering biting criticism, Abdul sweetly encouraging and Jackson often falling neatly between the two.
When "Idol" auditions were held, it was often Abdul that wanna-be contestants would admit they wanted to encounter. And whatever the judges decided, many of them sought out a hug from Abdul.
And as much as the fans loved her, she returned the affection to them and "Idol."
"I love the show, I do," Abdul said during an interview with "Nightline" in April 2009. "I love what I do on the show, and I'm loving it more this season than ever."
That was despite the turmoil kicked up when producers decided to bring a fourth judge on board during Season Eight. Many fans didn't immediately warm to Kara DioGuardi. They viewed her as an interloper and possible replacement for Abdul.
The move caught even Abdul unawares as she said during the interview: "I was surprised because Simon has always been against the fourth. We've had guest judges come in before, and he banned that from happening anymore. I didn't understand the concept of what was happening."
DioGuardi and Abdul insisted in interviews that there was no animosity, and they appeared to make space for each other. In fact, Abdul seemed quite confident when she told "Nightline" that she believed no one could replace her.
Then Abdul announced, via Twitter, that she would not be returning to the show. Weeks later, talk show host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres announced she had been selected as the show's newest judge.
Now firmly into the new season, countless fans seem to have not adjusted to the new "Idol" world, which has seen even the set change. With the mediocrity of talent this season, there is even a theory that Abdul had much to do with picking past stars.
Not a week goes by when visitors to CNN's "American Idol" blog don't comment on the loss of Abdul.
"Bring back Paula," said blog commenter Adrian Cronauer. "At least she was fun to watch and great looking to boot."
"The show has lost its 'zest,' " wrote a commenter named Mary. "I feel Simon has lost complete interest, and Kara is trying so hard to take Paula's place with Simon, rubbing his arm and putting her head on his shoulder -- it is horrible this year."
"Idol" has always been a ratings monster, much to the chagrin of its competition. Bill Gorman of TV by the Numbers recently wrote "Idol haters keeping track at home can note the show's down just 5% in adults 18-49 this season so far."
That's probably fodder for members of Facebook fan groups such as "Paula Abdul, U Need To Come Back To American Idol!" and "American Idol needs Paula Abdul back" even though the show's Nielsen numbers are still the envy of many and it continues to dominate other networks.
Matthew Jaffe, a writer at TV.com, recently tweeted a link to his story featuring the four reasons Paula is missed, which were: her chemistry with Simon and Randy, her unpredictability, her dancing (she was often up out of her seat during performances) and her beautiful mind.
Abdul has has been fairly quiet about any new projects, though she is set to reprise her role as a judge for the second season of the Lifetime series "Drop Dead Diva."
And while rumors of possible talk shows and other appearances swirl, there is at least one well-known fan who is also feeling the lack of Abdul and who has the power to get her back on the small screen.
"I miss Paula," Simon Cowell admitted to Jay Leno during a recent appearance on "The Tonight Show."
"I talk to Paula all the time. She was great fun, and [Idol] is a different show without her. Something will happen with me and her at some point."