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Randy Jackson talks 'Idol,' 'Dance Crew,' and missing Paula and Simon

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America’s Best Dance Crew returns tonight, and executive produder Randy Jackson says it’s the best season yet. That’s what they always say! But he also says he doesn’t know how long he’ll be on his other show, a little up-and-comer called American Idol, and that losing Paula and getting ready to lose Simon is like “breaking up a family.” Ouch. EW spoke with Jackson this week to get the low-down on the b-boys and girls, Adam and Kris, and how old Dance Crew fans are supposed to be.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did Omarion wind up as Shane Sparks’ replacement on America’s Best Dance Crew this season? (Sparks was arrested in December on charges of child molestation.)

RANDY JACKSON: Shane is going through some personal things, and we wish him the best with all that, but we had a role to fill. I’ve been a fan and friend of Omarion for a long time — I knew him in his group days (in B2K). He’s an amazing dancer; he has movie stuff and TV stuff that he’s done. We looked at a lot of people, but he was just the right fit.

How involved are you yourself in selecting the crews?

Very involved! [laughs]… The Dawg always has to have his say. This season, the talent level of the kids is at an all-time high. It’s way more competitive than the ones in the past. Before, at the beginning of the season, I always had my eye on one or two or three crews, and I thought it’s got to be one of these three. Right now, I think any crew could take it.

Yeah, in the first season, from the first episode, it was like, “Oh, it’s going to be Jabbawockeez.”

Yeah, you could just tell. I think season 2, you could really tell. Season 3 got more competitive and down to the wire, and season 4 was competitive, too.

There are two people on a crew this season that have already been on the show. Isn’t that cheating? (Two members of Legendary Seven were on season 1’s Status Quo.)

No, if you didn’t win, you can reform, join another crew, try again. It’s all open season.

Does this mean my dream that Fanny Pack will be back on the show could still come true?

[Laughs] I don’t know about the whole crew….

What about a best-of season?

Yeah, we talk about doing things like that, maybe a special or something.

So that other show you’re part of. There’s been some shifts in judging there, too.

Yeah, it’s just volcanic everywhere, man.

Is it you?

[Laughs] I don’t know, man. It might be EW. It’s kind of just how life moves; things change.

Speaking of change, how long do you see yourself at Idol?

You never know. You never really know how long — I don’t know. That’s a very good question.

And one I’m sure you’ve been asked a lot. I’m sort of surprised you don’t have an answer.

No, look, contractually I’m there for a while [his contract ends in 2011]. I think Idol‘s the best show of its kind so far, and it can go on for quite some time. It’s kind of weird that Simon’s leaving — it’s weird to be the last original judge. I miss Paula dearly, she’s my dear friend and she’s mad talented and mad cool. And without a doubt we’ll miss Mr. Cowell — he’s my boy for life. … The shifting of the family, breaking up the family, it’s interesting.

Wow, breaking up a family? That sounds bad.

You can look at it that way. The show is partly about us, but it’s mostly about the contestants. If we were the only part of the show, if we were the whole cast, you’d be right. But it’s a show about some kids that go on to greatness, or hopefully a shot at greatness. We’re half of it, sure, but there’s another half that’s a great rocketship, a chance, an opportunity for some very talented people.

The masses have been wondering if minus Simon and Paula, Idol will still be good. Does that hurt your feelings?

[dramatically] Yeah, they should actually be crying. [crying] At least The Dawg is still in the house. [laughs] Nah, it’s okay. We’re only part of it. Kris and Adam are out there doing their thing, and I don’t think people are thinking about [the judges], oh, I’m not going to by their records because the judges aren’t here.

Last year you were pretty vocal about predicting a Danny/Adam final…

I was only half wrong!

Does that give you pause about crystal-balling this year? You’ve already said you think it’s going to be a girl.

The girls were stronger. It’s a girl’s year to lose. I’m hoping for a girl — the last two winners were boys. You gotta keep it even, man; give the girls some play, dawg.

Did the judging changes on Idol affect the way you approached the judging changes on ABDC?

No, they’re totally separate. Dance Crew is a younger look. It’s younger than other dance shows, too, like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance.

So You Think You Can Dance is totally a young show!

I mean, it’s not old, but it’s a little older. Probably like 21. ABDC is really 10-20.

Ah! I’m way too old to watch it!

[Laughs] No, man, I’m only 25 and I love it!

More American Idol and America’s Best Dance Crew on EW.com:

ABDC‘s new season teams revealed

American Idol hub

Michael Slezak’s recap of last night’s Idol

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