Verne's Newsday review...
Well, she's not Paula.
Funny, smart, and maybe a little more severe than anyone probably expected - those professorial glasses - the newest judge of "American Idol" made a soft landing last night. Arms didn't flail. The body didn't sway. Squeals, yelps or other expressions of hyperbolic emotion were not emitted. There may be passion, even genuine joy, behind those cool-warm blue eyes. Guess we'll have to wait to find out.
Ellen DeGeneres didn't say much last night or even do much last night - credit or blame to the editors of "Idol" who decided to limit her commentary to a few quips and sage nods and a shuffled paper here or there. But if first impressions are important (they are), this one was pleasing.
We all knew Ellen was funny but we just couldn't quite visualize her humor in the context of "Idol." She told some contestants to step forward, then back, then forward again, and, oh "Danny, step to your left a little bit." (Of course they all got through to the next round.) She advised another contestant to wear shoes because "Hollywood is a filthy" place. That's exactly the sort of observation that should make thirty million fans nod in agreement.
DeGeneres has a hard job and we all know what that is - replace someone who pretty much made this show what it is and was (not counting contestants, Simon and Randy, of course.) She also begins at the least fun moment in the cycle, when judges dispatch hopefuls like Freddy Krueger dispatches dreaming teens. It's an awful week, Hollywood, like exams or the SATs. You can make jokes (Ellen did), but the risks of bombing are obvious as well.
Moreover, Ellen had absolutely no interaction with the other judges; Kara DioGuardi seemed to ignore her. Randy, on the opposite end of the table, was a mile away. Simon, right next her, was half a mile away. It was weird, chilly, and perhaps to be expected.
So, tonight's another night. Ellen has a long way to go before we forget about Paula.
If we ever do.