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The pros and cons of Ellen DeGeneres' 'Idol' gig

Two EW experts weight in with different opinions

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The pros and cons of Ellen DeGeneres’ ‘Idol’ gig

…A Good Idea

Hear that? It’s the sound of no one talking about Paula Abdul anymore. Strictly from a public relations standpoint, the hiring of Ellen DeGeneres has been an unqualified success in that it has shifted the discussion from what American Idol is losing next season to what it’s gaining. And it is gaining something pretty great in Ellen, a beloved entertainer who is uniquely qualified to sit among the Idol judges. Sure, Simon, Randy, and Kara may boast traditional music smarts, but Ellen is a true-blue fan of the genre. She, in essence, is the voice of the record-downloading public, and it’s high time that person was represented on the panel. The fact that this particular fan can also fill the much-needed nurturing, motherly void — without all of her predecessor’s linguistic liabilities — is just icing on the cake. Oh, and did I mention that she’s also pretty darn funny? As I see it, there are no losers here. Unless you count Abdul, who has to be kicking herself (or her management) right about now. —Michael Ausiello

…A Bad Idea

Hiring Ellen DeGeneres as American Idol‘s permanent fourth judge is like adding a cup of sugar to a recipe that needed a liberal sprinkling of Tabasco. As her guest-judging stint on So You Think You Can Dance in July taught us, the daytime host is less interested in providing critical feedback than in trying out variations on the ”You’re great, you’re great, and you’re great, and here’s a punchline!” theme. Which means that when Idol‘s live-performance shows kick off next February, audiences will be blithely fast-forwarding through three out of four judges’ comments — sorry, Randy and Kara! — a bad portent for the long-term health of TV’s No. 1 show. Worse still, Idol‘s inexplicable commitment to a four-judge format means that once again, the show will have less airtime to devote to its next crop of Kris Allens and Adam Lamberts. After eight seasons, is it possible the producers still don’t understand the basic formula that keeps Idol fans coming back by the tens of millions? A single ”Heartless” or ”Mad World” is worth 1,000 ”wacky” exchanges at the judges’ table. —Michael Slezak