The Dawg is alive, well and still employed. Randy Jackson's returning to "American Idol" as a judge for the show's 12th season.
After weeks of definitive reporting by various online outlets that Jackson would be eased into a mentoring role, all it took was the briefest of tweets by Simon Cowell Monday night to say that the rumors were all, in fact, premature: "Just heard Randy is back on Idol. Right decision."
Fox Tuesday remained silent, but various outlets confirmed Cowell's tweet, adding that talks with possible fourth judge Enrique Iglesias had broken off. So, for those keeping a flow chart, the new panel most likely looks like this: Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban and Jackson. (Minaj and Urban also have not been officially announced by Fox.)
After a decade of change and upheaval -- different sets, theaters, producers, judges and even musical directors -- there have been just two constants here: Host Ryan Seacrest and Jackson. But even that looked reasonably certain to change in the forthcoming 12th season, as Fox and producer Fremantle have struggled to figure out how to bring back viewers and cultural relevance.
To that end, the judging panel looked like a rainbow coalition of music styles and tastes, with Carey in the diva role, Iglesias the heartthrob with reach into the Latino community, Urban the country star and Minaj the hip-hop one. This left Randy -- aging rocker and music impresario (and Carey's co-manager) -- out in the cold.
Until saner heads prevailed. His return is good, especially for continuity, good for panel balance, good for institutional knowledge (of which the three newcomers have none). He's also the council elder -- the wise man of the group who could and should keep matters on an even keel, and mediate whatever disputes erupt between Carey and Minaj (both don't like each other, if you believe everything you read).
The four-judge panel didn't work -- in part -- because there were too many voices and not enough time.
From experience, Jackson will know how to keep the chatter moving briskly along. So Simon's right (again): This was indeed the right decision.