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Another Day, Another Prime-Time Shuffle: This Time It's Simon Cowell, Leaving "American Idol" for His Own Fox Series
January 12, 2010  | By David Bianculli  | 1 comment
simon-cowell.jpgBeginning tonight at 8 ET on Fox, the ninth season of American Idol begins with a notable absence: from now on, no more Paula Abdul. What Fox announced yesterday, though, was a coming change of much more significant proportions: Simon Cowell will be leaving after this season, and launching his own talent-search series, an American variant of his British hit, The X Factor, in fall 2011.

And just like the latest Leno shuffle, this move has major TV implications...


The smaller question is, will Cowell be able to make lightning strike twice? He'll be a judge on Fox's X Factor, just as he continues to be on the British version. So my guess is yes. In the right time slot, Cowell will continue to be a draw.

The big question here, though, is how will American Idol fare in a post-Simon configuration? And there, the prognosis is less sunny, even for a TV show that, right now, is the medium's biggest entertainment juggernaut.


The addition of Ellen DeGeneres this season, replacing Abdul, is tricky enough. (She shows up around Hollywood week.) It'll be interesting to see how that plays out, and how DeGeneres fine-tunes her judging persona (too many jokes? too nice? too acerbic?). One advantage she has now, that she didn't have until yesterday, is that Simon Cowell now has lame-duck status. She can swing away, confident that she'll be there after he's gone.

But what about the quality of the judging -- and, thus, the show? Kara DioGuardi has added nothing to the show, except for a tendency to amplify her own generalized remarks. I've watched every edition of American Idol, and the post-performance evaluations, for years, have been a distracting exercise in waiting to hear what, to quote the old children's game, Simon Says.

Randy Jackson: "Blahblah pitchy, blahblah dawg, blahblah justawrightforme blahblah keepingitreal."

Kara DioGuardi: "Blahblah wrongsongchoice blahblah superstar blahblah goosebumps."

Paula Abdul: "Blahblah Neptune blahblah Pluto blahblah Uranus."

Simon Cowelll: "To be honest, that was atrocious."

With Simon gone, there's no THERE there. He needs to be replaced by someone with heft and credibility, someone who can criticize without alienating the audience. If the American Idol producers choose the wrong replacement, that's how, and when, this prime-time juggernaut willl stop.

Meanwhile, this 2010 season gets the added publicity jolt of it being DeGeneres' first season AND Cowell's last. So don't worry about American Idol in 2010.

Worry about it it 2011...

By the way, occasional TV WORTH WATCHING contributor Bill Brioux, who's out on press tour, filed a wonderful report on the Fox announcement of Simon Cowell's X Factor. It appeared on Brioux's own entertaining blog, TV FEEDS MY FAMILY, and you can read his Cowell entry by clicking HERE.

And a while back, Brioux also wrote a wonderful piece about my Dangerously Funny book, which I'm proud to offer a link to also. Read it HERE. It's so well-written, and so flattering, I should have posted it a lot sooner.

Thanks, Bill. Hang in there on press tour. Sorry I missed the "24" ball caps...




Mac said:

I cannot comment on the content of "American Idol", since I've never seen an episode, only sound bites from teasers, news stories, etc. But, as a fan of real pop music, "American Idol" really slammed the door on music for the masses. I'll grant Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood as singers who probably would have made it, no matter what. The rest - worthless? They seem to be appearing in an endless recycling of touring editions of "Grease"(a so-so musical even without AI names) to fill the seats. Major Bowes (the originator of the "original Amateur Hour") must be spinning in his grave while his estate gets no monies from "AI".
Ricky Skaggs, while promoting his new album, has taken "AI" to task for its influence on current country music. He likens John Mayer(pop) and Taylor Swift (supposedly country) as nearly the same mindless fluff, though, INHO, LOUD fluff. Personally, I would also throw in the negative influence of the Eagles to the bland muck that is country music today, but Skaggs has a point. Thank goodness he also has a new album one can listen to rather than paying attention to music on the radio via the latest AI winners or losers.

Comment posted on January 12, 2010 1:15 PM

Rich said:

Who to replace Simon? there's only one choice: Sharon Osbourne. About a month ago I saw her on a YouTube clip of Opie & Anthony's radio show where she verbally savaged Susan Boyle (That women who sang the "Les Miz" song and stole our hearts, yadda, yadda, on "UK's "X Factor") for looking 'Manly' and needing a razor. I was in tears I was laughing so hard. It was so wrong and sadistic yet, many of her points were valid tastefully British. That's what you'll need. I'd pay to see Sharon verbally rip Ellen on a weekly basis.

All anyone needs to know is that Sharon is distinctly British (at her core), She had the music industry chops, she's FEARLESS with her criticism, and scariest of all- She argued for over 30 minutes (off the cuff) LIVE on air with The Insane Clown Posse on Howard Stern. She doesn't need any writers or wind-up- just annoy and watch her fly!

Ellen is a worse choice than Paula! She's got no Music acumen, she's a known push-over for anyone connected to her lifestyle & politics, and she's only there for P.C. cred. What? Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, Vitamin C, Brandi, Jewel, and Mandy Moore were all busy? (and are actual 'Eye Candy').

As sad as it sounds A.I. only works cause Simon tells the Truth! It's the only reason the show survives- Looks like "X Factor" is going to Fox's New hit as long as Simon stays Simon. Sides, isn't A.I. rigged for to keep the producer 'Hand-Picked' contestants on longer?- does anyone care about the outcome?

Comment posted on January 12, 2010 1:27 PM

Neil said:

Worry not, ol' master critic. This is American Idol. (Produced for the Idle American.) And this, more importantly, is Rupert Murdoch's Fox.

Simon's leaving will be upstaged by his replacement, the one and only person worthy of the mantle.

Yes, it's ... Phil Specter! Live from his prison cell each week. Or even better, appearing live, in his orange prison jumpsuit and shackles.

Remember this is Fox, the Bread and Circuses Network. And Rupert, who somehow manages to pull a rabbit out of every hat, while avoiding all the bunny poop at the bottom.

Comment posted on January 12, 2010 1:50 PM

Eileen said:

I'm beginning to think that AI has worn out its welcome. I loved it the first few seasons, but it's beginning to feel tired. And many of the contestants are far from "off the street"; they have some serious musical backgrounds.

That being said, if I had to pick a replacement for Simon it would be David Foster, the "Hitman". He was a judge on Celebrity Duets n 2006, and has the right balance of positive assessment and caustic commentary to recharge the judges.

As for Ellen, she can hold her own, thank you very much.

Though I'm very late to the table on the NBC debacle, why does this surprise any of us? We've seen this train wreck coming since the season began. NBC went from being the proud Peacock Network to the Chicken Scratch Network. We all saw how they put the knife in David Letterman's back, so this is just more of the same. Conan will live long and prosper at another network where he will be treated properly. Jay Leno will gain nothing from this aside from a reputation as a spoiled brat and NBC errand boy.

As David Letterman once commented when noting he wasn't supposed to use the term "Top Ten" as it was the "intellectual property of NBC", "The name NBC and the word intellectual should never be used in the same sentence."


Comment posted on January 12, 2010 3:44 PM
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