Three weeks into a new season, I have made my judgment: "American Idol" without Paula Abdul is sadder, weaker, less interesting and absolutely, positively less fun.
I miss her passion, humanity, joy, unpredictability and genuine emotion.
Here are my eight reasons why a Paula-free "Idol" has dimmed and paled so dramatically this season. (Of course, we'll see what happens after Ellen DeGeneres makes her judging debut next week.)
1. Simon seems desperately bored, as if his mind is elsewhere. Because it probably is.
2. Randy looks unhappy.
3. Actually, Randy looks lonesome, as if he's thinking, "Geez, I'm gonna be the last one here next season."
4. When Kara tries to be nice - "Oh, honey, come here and lemme give you a hug" - it feels phony. She may be the sweetest person on the planet, but on TV it comes across as false and manufactured.
5. The guest judges are hit-and-miss and, worse, irrelevant. This "guest judging" all feels like a gimmick because it is a gimmick - to throw a spotlight on a famous pop singer and get fans to tune in.
6. There is no heart left.
7. There is no passion. I can't stress that enough.
8. No one knows how to work off Simon, and get him engaged, or smooth his sharp edges, or give him extra human dimensions. When Kara gives him that double take and sort of says, "You disagreeing with me?" it comes off as lame.