Simon Cowell
Credit: Simon Cowell: Carin Baer

Okay, so it’s probably just a pre-season P.R. stunt to get people talking about American Idol, but according to today’s New York Times, there’s a chance Simon Cowell might not return as a judge for Season 5. Apparently, he’s involved in a lawsuit with Idol producer Simon Fuller over his own hit British series, The X-Factor, and its similarity to the program that spawned Clay Aiken.

This raises the question, of course, about how damaging Simon’s departure would be to the Idol franchise. In my mind, it would certainly sting a little, as Simon is the only consistently strong voice among the judges (sorry, Dawg!), but in the end, I’d be willing to bet there’d be almost no audience drop-off for the show, provided the producers find an equally witty and outspoken replacement. (I’d go with the delightfully un-edited Kathy Griffin or the outrageous Mo’Nique; you needn’t be a record exec to differentiate between a Fantasia and a John Stevens, after all.) And anyhow, at its heart, isn’t Idol really about the contestants?

What do you say, Idol addicts? Can the show go on without Mr. Nasty? And if it does, who should take his place on the panel? Discuss!

addCredit(“Simon Cowell: Carin Baer”)