The old gang: Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell.

The old gang: Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell. Credit: Getty Images


  If you haven't seen this week's TV Guide cover story on "Idol," by Kim Masters, then I highly recommend. There's some good reporting here, alongside much speculation about Simon Cowell's replacement.

Of course, the Guide provides a list of possible replacements, along with their virtues and drawbacks. There are no surprises in this list - all the names have been bandied about for months, and some of them, like U2 manager Steve Lillywhite, have actively campaigned for the gig. (See below.)

 It's a good list, and they're all good candidates BUT I have different opinions from the Guide. Herewith my high note/sour note on each.
 But keep this one little fact in mind as "Idol," Fox and Simon Fuller search for SiCo's replacement. Whoever takes this job must have enormous gravitas because he or she must replicate the role that SiCo plays. He is the last judge to speak; he is the Moses of the "Idol" panel, his words almost magically seem to glow with the Truth. Of course that's nonsense, but that's absolutely the panel dynamic as it's now configured.

  He or she who replaces Simon must speak the Truth, or convey the idea that he or she is speaking said Truth; anything less and this whole show falls apart into a heap of miserable dust...

 Well...not miserable dust. But not happy dust either.

 So: to the list:

 Jamie Foxx:

High note: Rumored for months and months, the Guide says Fox wants him but maybe his movie sched might conflict. Fine mentor and great talent. What's the drawback?

 Sour note: You don't want "talent" in this gig; a talent like Foxx's is unusual - fine pianist, singer, performer, hell of an actor. But judge? No - that's a unique talent all of it's own. It requires a cerebral approach, the mind of a critic, a real critic, a smart critic. I submit - Foxx doesn't have that mind. He's got plenty else going for him anyway.

Guy Oseary:

High: Madonna manager, famous industry guy, household name in musical households, no doubt astute judge of what is good and what is bad.

Sour: As Guide notes, nobody else knows who the heck he is! But I'd add here that name recognition is irrelevant. No one knew who Simon was either. So that's a bogus issue. Again, I'd say Oseary's key problem is in fact Madonna. People will say, well why Guy, and why not Madonna? (Answer: Not enough money in world to get Madonna). Madonna? Sure! Thrilling - but don't forget, her sizzle is her mystery, her unattainability. She's Madonna. She'd blow that to kingdom come by becoming a judge on "Idol."

Tommy Mottola:

High: Again, famous industry dude.

Sour: For one, Michael Jackson compared him to the devil. No - in fact, Michael Jackson called him the devil. That could be a problem.

Jimmy Iovine:

High: Head of Interscope, and great talent massager.

Sour: Why in heaven's name would the head of Interscope want to do this job? Does he really need it? And if he really does need it, do viewers really need him? Yeah, famous entrepreneurs and industry tycoons are indentured savants on channels like CNBC - but usually after they've split from the boardroom. An Iovine choice seems to me very curious - and really, how patient would someone like this be following nominal talent around the country at "Idol" meat market auditions after having worked with everyone from Springsteen to Blige? Would his heart be in this? That seems inconceivable.

Adam Lambert:

High: Was good mentor, and among the top 5 or 6 "Idolistas" ever.

Sour: Oh come on! Do you think Randy or anyone on the panel should defer to a former contestant!? What has Glambert really done anyway - besides nearly win "Idol?" This is the most ridiculous choice of them all. I can't believe the Guide bit at this stupid rumor.

Ryan Seacreat:

High: Great gabber and highly skillful TV performer.

Sour: I don't think you can make the jump from host to judge - it just can't be done. Viewers wouldn't buy it. And more to the point, contestants wouldn't buy it. They'd be confused -"aren't you the guy who's supposed to ask me stuff, and not tell me stuff?" This is a non-starter.

Paula Abdul:

High: Well reader, you know I do love Paula. I adore the dear girl. I miss her every time I watch the show.

Sour: Again, this job requires authority - SiCo-like authority. Pabdul doesn't have it. Never ever will. But bless her, she's got other gifts.

Howard Stern:

 High: He's Howard! Funny, off-the-cuff, obnoxious and a tell-it-like-it-is dude.

 Sour: In some ways, this choice would be inspired. If grannies don't like the longhair from NYC, so be it. Stern would add a marvelous sense of the unpredictable - tough, funny, and I think when someone was good, he'd tell 'em they were good. But again, he's a "name" with baggage, and I just don't think the other judges would buy his observations; that's key. To a large extent, the other judges will need to defer at some point to the chief macher, whoever that will be.

Quincy Jones:

High: He's Q! That's high as it gets.

Sour: Sorry, but age is a factor here. He's seventy-seven years young which is about a quarter century beyond SiCo. Plus, getting judged by Q would be like really getting that aforementioned Moses critique. It would feel very very serious - almost too much so.  

Steve Lillywhite:

 High: Love that Brit accent.

 Sour: I actually kinda like Lillywhite for this role, but he's a bit needy (see below.) He'd be smart and funny, etc. etc., but I suspect most viewers - and fellow judges - would just see him as Simon Lite. That's a killer.

Bottom line: Either Simon is irreplaceable or Fox et al have to keep on looking. My verdict - they have to keep on looking.   


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