Skip to main content

'American Idol': Implosion or genius?

By Lisa Respers France, CNN
Click to play
JLo, Steven Tyler new 'Idol' judges?
  • As judge Ellen DeGeneres leaves "Idol," there are reports of other possible changes
  • Reports say current judge Randy Jackson will be joined by Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler
  • Blogger: "Idol" will never be the way it was when Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell were judges
  • writer says right chemistry among judges is essential for show's success

(CNN) -- "American Idol" fans can be demanding when it comes to their favorite show, but their arguments are usually about the contestants.

Last year, however, the talk was mostly about the judges.

The list of concerns was long: The show was boring. Simon Cowell was leaving. Paula Abdul was gone. And few seemed to be enthusiastic about Abdul's replacement, Ellen DeGeneres, who was singled out for her flat comments and poor chemistry with the rest of the panel. Though "Idol" remained the nation's No. 1 show, ratings suffered.

Turns out DeGeneres, the comedienne and talk show host, wasn't happy either. On Thursday, she announced she was departing "Idol" after just one season.

Apparently, there are more changes on the horizon. Rumors have swirled that fellow judge Kara DioGuardi is also out and that the panel will be adding Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler. It's a head-spinning sequence that has fans wondering about the show's future.

"I think the show's producers clearly saw that something was very, very wrong," said Melinda Green, who runs the blog "Top Idol." "But with what they are doing right now, it's like putting a Band-Aid on a big, gaping wound."

Video: Ellen votes herself off Idol
Video: Simpson to replace Simon on Idol?

The changes started last year with Cowell, who announced in January that the show's ninth season, which concluded in May, would be his last. But the chatter picked up this week with DeGeneres, who tweeted Thursday, "Dim the lights...I voted myself off American Idol."

DeGeneres released a statement saying that she would not be returning for the show's 10th season, which will begin next January. She had alerted producers a "couple months ago" that things weren't working, she said.

"It was a difficult decision to make, but my work schedule became more than I bargained for," said DeGeneres, who also hosts the popular "Ellen DeGeneres Show." "I also realized this season that while I love discovering, supporting and nurturing young talent, it was hard for me to judge people and sometimes hurt their feelings."

Colleague Cowell, who left to helm an American version of his British reality competition show "The X Factor," offered some kind words to DeGeneres in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.

"As I got to know Ellen, I grew to really, really like her," Cowell said. "I have huge respect for her because she's always been in control of her own destiny."

Monica Herrera with said change on the show, whose competition had dubbed it the "Death Star" because of its unbeatable ratings, was inevitable.

"We knew this was coming and that there was going to be a pretty big shake-up on the panel, with the ratings going down this past season, the departure of Simon and the need to refresh and rebrand 'American Idol,' " she said. "I think both [Ellen] and the show realized that it wasn't a good fit and the audience realized it over the season."

Blogger Green said news that actress/singer Lopez and Aerosmith front man Tyler may join original judge Randy Jackson might stir some initial excitement, but it remains to be seen if it will elevate "Idol."

"The show is never going to be like it was before because Paula [Abdul] and Simon [Cowell] are gone," Green said. "Jennifer Lopez just isn't that likeable, and say what you will about Paula's behavior on the show, she was at least likeable."

Reports recently surfaced that Nigel Lythgoe, an original "Idol" producer and a "So You Think You Can Dance" judge, is expected to rejoin the show as producer and has been outspoken in his desire to wipe the judges slate clean.

iReport: What do you think of all the changes?

In a singing competition where the judges are bigger stars than many of the contestants, Herrera said, Lopez and Tyler on board could give the show a jolt if their addition actually pans out

"The panel is not just about replacing one judge for another, but rather the chemistry between the three or four, depending upon what they end up with, has a huge impact on the show," Herrera said. "If we look at what's rumored right now, I think Jennifer Lopez works because she has a great television and film personality, she had her own dance reality show and she can walk the line between being not nice and mean. With all of the rock contestants 'Idol' has had recently, Steven Tyler is interesting, and it would be nice to have someone on the panel that has an ear for that."

Maria Notaras, a writer for the celebrity social networking site -- where season five "American Idol" winner Taylor Hicks ranks as the most popular celeb -- said she believes all of the changes on the show will continue to stoke the immense fandom of die-hard viewers.

"I feel like this is a big explosion and a place where the passionate fans of the show can now come and voice their opinions about how they want to see the show reshaped," she said. "Even though this last season wasn't the best, fans still want to talk about it, they want to offer their opinions and they want to make it better."

At this point, things can't get much worse, said Dave Della Terza, creator of the Web site Vote for the Worst, which has raised hackles among fans for highlighting the most wanting "Idol" contestants. Citing reported poor ticket sales for the "American Idol" Live Tour, Della Terza said producers are right to make some changes.

"The show is on a downward spiral," he said. "If they can shake things up, maybe they can reinvent it. They really have to save this business model, or else it's doomed after this next season."