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Ellen: The 10 things it means

Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen DeGeneres Photo Credit: Fox


Not nine.

Not 11.

But 10 things that tell you, dear reader, what this momentous departure really means...

 1.) Niceness doesn't count. We all like Ellen. I like Ellen. She's likable. But likable doesn't cut it as an "Idol"  judge. Nor fairness, nor necessarily even knowledge (Ellen had the former, a bit less of the latter). It's all about chemistry with the other judges and if you can forge a bond with said judges that doesn't seem forced or phony, then viewers -- and contestants -- will know instantly, intuitively, right into the marrow of their bones. Poor Ellen never managed to understand that being the "nice" judge was irrelevant. 

2.) Simon (Cowell) is partly to blame. That's right -- dear SiCo, who couldn't or wouldn't lift a solitary finger to dial in to his army of flacks when she was first appointed to say "how happy" he was to have her aboard and "how great a job" she would do. He might not have believed it, but it might have at least made her more comfortable. He was really quite a cad about the whole thing, and never once attempted to forge anything with Ellen. He scuttled her.

 3.) Fame doesn't count. Simon Fuller -- Doctor Evil -- is over there in the U.K. waving his magic wand, assuming that all he has to do is get "someone famous" on the panel and the stupid Americans will rush to the show like the foolish lemmings he knows them to be. Wrong, Dr. Evil. It's about chemistry, not fame. You don't need a famous judge -- Randy wasn't famous, and nor was SiCo, while PabDul's fame days were long long before her "Idol" moment. (Actually, fame may count -- if as widely reported this morning, J-Lo and Steven Tyler hop aboard the "Idol" express as judges. Music industry fame counts -- of course -- but who ever thought Madonna or Katy Perry or Justin Timberlake would hook up with "Idol"?  But J-Lo and Tyler? Big names, too. We will see...)

4.)  "Idol" is running scared. Yes, they suspect that something catestrophic has happened to the most important franchise in Fox history, and a TV game-changer without parallel in the past decade. And "Idol" should be scared! Kids don't even watch the show any more. ("Kids," meaning teens.) "Idol's" demo will drift into CBS range in a few years. Ellen's departure is simply saying -- "no kids know who she is..."

5.) "Idol" will do anything to get Justin Timberlake. Ah yes, JT should do the trick, right? Well, does JT want this? I don't know but I suspect not -- unless he wants to cash out for pretty much the rest of his life. Judging "Idol" -- unless you're SiCo -- is pretty much an end in itself. The whole notion of being an "Idol" judge crowds out any other career aspirations the judge may ever again have; he or she will just be "the 'Idol' judge.'" 

6.) The next announcement will be that Nigel Lythgoe is the new executive producer. After that terrific Hollywood Reporter scoop earlier this week, we all know he's coming, and we all know he wants to shake up the judge panel.

7.) Elton John will likely not be Ellen's replacement. I could and may well be outrageously wrong -- I can be that, you know -- but it seems to me that EJ would spook Fox, which must assume -- correctly -- that no self-respecting 17-year-old has a clue who EJ is.  

8.) More big changes are on the way. Inconceivable to me that Fox/Dr. Evil are sitting around saying, "oh, muuuuch better. Ellen is gone. Everything will be good now." Kara D has got to be worried, too. She has had as much impact on "Idol" as Ellen did. 

9.) Paula may be coming back. Yes, the return of the Queen. There's comfort in this scenario -- for viewers and for Fox, even if she did try to hold 'em up and she  played her  hand, and it wasn't as strong as she thought. She may have deserved what SiCo was getting paid -- but "deserve" is a strange word in the context of talent negotiations. She was still going to make dozens of millions of dollars; it all turned into an ego trip for her and she got tripped up.

10.) Finally, my 10th reason and it is simple -- this isn't THAT important a change. Yes, yes, I know -- I just enumerated nine reasons it was important, etc., but in one sense, it's just another reminder that big changes happen on shows all the time. TV is a dynamic medium (sorry to point out the obvious) and TV changes quickly to adapt to whatever the needs of the moment are, and it goes on. So do we. Ellen gave it the old college try. She wasn't a bad judge -- just not the right judge. "Idol" will try try again. Life -- for "Idol," and for all of us -- will go on. But "Idol" -- more than anything -- needs to find exciting contestants again. Get those and the current problems become history.


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