By Lanford Beard
January 31, 2012 at 07:22 PM EST

With this morning’s news that Nicole Scherzinger, Paula Abdul, and Steve Jones will not be returning to The X Factor next season, it would appear the cheese (Simon Cowell) stands alone. Well, mostly alone. There’s still L.A. Reid, hanging on to his Pepsi cup like a barnacle on a cruise ship. The show is clearly undergoing a major overhaul, probably so Simon Cowell can clinch those 20 million viewers he boldly projected last fall… and that a Cowell-less Idol scored just last week. It got us thinking: Who should host and judge the next edition of X Factor. We pose some suggestions below…

Host

Seacrest in? Too obvious, but so good

Though Ryan Seacrest’s Idol contract is up after this season, and the magic of his banter with Cowell would be glorious, I suspect he’s on to higher-paying gigs. Wouldn’t it be nice, though? Just for old time’s sake?

Or perhaps…

Producers could opt for Seacrest’s taller, snarkier doppelganger, Joel McHale. Since Community is in sitcom limbo and The Soup probably takes up about 8 minutes and 37 seconds of his time weekly, he could swing it. He would inevitably crack up at the absurdly long pauses and bring some much-needed slyness to the festivities.

A second chance for Ellen?

Ellen DeGeneres. Now hear me out. Though she has proven herself to be an excellent host for nine years of The Ellen DeGeneres Show and on the Emmys, clearly she was not meant to be a judge. Like Scherzinger, she couldn’t overcome the need to be nice. While that was a detriment in critiquing the contestants, it would be a benefit as a host.

File under: “Mind-Blowingly Awesome Things That Will Never Happen”

I’m just going to throw Kathy Griffin out there. She’s hosted reality TV before (The Mole, Mr. Personality), and she wouldn’t take any guff from Cowell. Of course, she’s prone to stripping and saying time-slot-inappropriate words, but for enough money, I’m quite sure she could clean up her act.

NEXT: On to the judges

Judges

Katy Perry

She would be everything that Kara DioGuardi wasn’t on Idol: an experienced behind-the-scenes force who made it big and has lived to tell about it. The parade of insane costumes alone would be worth tuning in for.

Kelly Clarkson

Similarly, Clarkson is someone who’s been through this process. Though you’d think that would have worked for Scherzinger, a veteran of Pop Stars and Dancing With the Stars, but alas. Clarkson has proven that she’s unafraid to voice her opinions, even if they’re unpopular, and she’s got a certain down-home charm that a lot of viewers would relate to. Sure, she’s still doing very well as a singer, but she’s reaching the tail end of her tour and could use the days to record her next album before heading to the live shows.

Charlie Sheen

This man has no filter. While he waits for his new sitcom to materialize, Sheen will need something to use up all that jittery energy. With his predilection for calling people trolls and scoundrels, he’ll be like the Gordon “Donkey-Donut-BleepBleepBleep” Ramsay of singing competitions.

Seal

He spends about half the year touring, which leaves plenty of time to bring another dash of British suave to the panel. Recently single, he’ll need something to occupy his time. After 22 years in the business, he could prove to be one of the most experienced non-producing pros on the panel. Plus, who doesn’t want to hear “Kiss From a Rose” butchered six ways to Sunday?

Jesse Tyler Ferguson/Neil Patrick Harris

Both were outstanding as guest judges on So You Think You Can Dance last year, and both are song-and-dance men who could speak to the technical and staging aspects of the competition. Alas, they also both have full-time jobs, so it wouldn’t logistically make sense for either of them to sit beside Cowell every week, but maybe they could do alternating shifts. Six names + two ginger = judging gold.

Joan Rivers/Betty White

Likewise, these broads’ dance cards are pretty full, but Rivers made it clear that she does not like to have a single minute free in her day, and Betty White is an unstoppable juggernaut of awesomeness, so why not let them rotate? Rivers will not shy away from conflict with other judges, and she’ll be particularly harsh on wardrobe mishaps. White will make delightfully inappropriate innuendos about the male contestants. Everybody wins!

Celine Dion or Cher

I say or because the world might actually explode if these ladies were in the same room at the same time. Though my particular allegiance is to “The greatest singer in ze world!” for her Francophone whimsy, penchant for lunging, and sheer exuberance, Cher would obviously be an amazing choice, too. Clearly she is a woman who suffers no fools. Hopefully every interaction would go down like this, and the tabloid fodder between Cher and Burlesque costar and Voice host Christina Aguilera would be epic.

Read more:

‘X Factor’ shake-up: Paula Abdul, Nicole Scherzinger out

Steve Jones leaving ‘X Factor’

‘It’s time. To get. Serious’: 10 Things I’ll Miss Most About Departing ‘X Factor’ Host Steve Jones

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