Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ellen Degeneres Leaves American Idol Judges' Panel

When word came out that former American Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe would be returning to helm the show, rumors started spreading that he would perform a major ship cleaning (as it were) especially in the area of the judges' panel.  Obviously, with the departure of Simon Cowell, at least one spot had to be filled.  But the question was whether the other three would continue on.

That question has been answered at least for the newest member of the panel, when Ellen DeGeneres announced today that she would not be returning to the show.  She released the following statement regarding her departure:

“A couple months ago, I let FOX and the American Idol producers know that this didn’t feel like the right fit for me.  I told them I wouldn’t leave them in a bind and that I would hold off on doing anything until they were able to figure out where they wanted to take the panel next. It was a difficult decision to make, but my work schedule became more than I bargained for.

"I also realized this season that while I love discovering, supporting and nurturing young talent, it was hard for me to judge people and sometimes hurt their feelings. I loved the experience working on Idol and I am very grateful for the year I had, I am a huge fan of the show and will continue to be.”
I find her sudden concern about her "work schedule" to be a red herring.  In May, when Casey came on her show after he had been eliminated, she said to him, "I'm glad that I'm a part of this (meaning American Idol) now because when I go out to the audition rounds this year -- for the first time I'll be doing that -- I want to put more people like you in.  I want to put more musicians and more different styles and people that normally wouldn't be seen on that show."  Nothing changed between then and now in her schedule, unlike Ryan she hasn't added two or three more jobs onto her existing two. 

I think her other reason may be the more accurate explanation for her change of heart -- this was not a good fit for her.  Ellen is primarily two things -- a comic and a music fan.  Neither of those qualities came out this year.  Her humor often distracted and detracted from the performance she was supposed to critique.  Most of the time she offered either weak praise or noncomittal platittudes.  She never -- as they might have said to a contestant -- found her voice. I find it ironic that the person who told Casey twice that he was stiff seemed herself so uncomfortable in her role behind the judges' desk.

The problem with Ellen was the same problem all the judges had -- they thought the show was about them.  They ignored every dictionary definition of what a judge is supposed to be -- someone who offers a dispassionate, fair, and reasoned opinion after due consideration. Instead, this year in particular was a three ring circus whether it was the Kara the Cougar storyline or what fruit a contestant was or the endless repetition about how someone could never live up to early promise.  Why did it matter whether Kara could figure out what kind of a performer someone wanted to be or whether she liked someone's outfit?   I've wanted to say this all year -- it isn't Song Choice Idol. Just critique the damn perfomance.

None of these offerings from the judges rose to the level of a thoughtful evaluation.   Instead they made the show about them and made the contestants mere afterthoughts.  Ellen leaving is a move in the right direction, but the heart of the problem lies elsewhere.  When we hear the announcement that Kara has decided to leave for "personal reasons," we'll know that Idol has a chance of reclaiming its old groove.


  1. Shari, song choice would be different if they truly did have several to choose from, but they don't. Aaron Kelly let the cat out of the bag on his Idolatry interview that the list they release is not what the contestants get. They only have less than a dozen to pick from and have to pick fast before someone else gets their pick first. It still should be about the singing of the song, but I hate the "out of all the songs you could have chosen" crap. So deceptive :(

    I think Ellen got canned. I hope that Kara goes the same route but I fear they will keep the b/witch. I didn't watch AI S8 because of her, and I was so tired of Simon's nasty remarks. Kara has never been a good judge. Simon Cowell was highly over rated too. It was as though his opinion was the almighty. No, sorry, the people he has chosen to promote on his other shows aren't doing so well. That tells me something about him.

    I truly don't see any hope for AI. They run their contestants ragged and want songs rearranged in a busy week. God, forbid they do a karaoke version. Lee said in his Idolatry that Simon arranged Hallelujah for him. Nice. Why didn't anyone else have their song arranged for them??????

    I have an idea. If you want to know where the contestant wants to go musically, get rid of the different genre weeks. Or if you want a contestant to sound current, get some new songs and get rid of Elvis and Frank Sinatra weeks...please as a favor to those who watch.

    Ahhh crap, I've forgotten about Ellen's "resignation" and gone on a rant again :(

  2. I"m glad Ellen is off the show, but it is Kara who is most offensive and unprofessional and you're absolutely right, the judges think the show is all about them at the expense of the contestants. I was especially offended by merciless and unproductive remarks against Tim, and Katie & Aaron were constantly criticized for being young. Jeez! Add to that the disgusting Cougar crap that suggested that Casey was only there because of his looks when he has now proven to be the star of the show, and the judges just plain suck!!! The judges should be helping the contestants in a constructive way behind the scenes and not seen or heard from otherwise.

  3. I am reading this morning that Kara got fired. Bet that doesn't break anyone's heart who is reading this blog :)

  4. kara is the one that needed to go glad to see she finally is gone good ridence......hope randy stays.but he was the one that actually told casey to just take the shirt off kara said to maybe unbutton it.

  5. hopefully they will get rid of theme week,update song choices,3 judges would be fine,if they do have theme week follow casey i had never heard of jealous guy before which btw he did better than john l.don't by shania twain he also did better and the list goes on that he out performed the originals.btw glad kara's gone!!!!

  6. OMG, hallelujah, Kara is out!!?!!! Could it BE?!!!!! I LOATHE her, now I might actually be able to keep watching the show...

    And Ellen? I don't doubt for a second that she was fired. Schedule, schmedule... Right. If Nigel Lythgoe is back in charge, it's back to three judges. A few months back I saw an interview with Nigel Lythgoe where he said that having four judges was complete nonsense, and that they already had the perfect judges (Randy, Paula, Simon).

    Getting a fourth judge was just a way for them to phase out Paula (fools). And if they were going to do that, picking Kara the ***t of all people to replace her? Baaaad decision, that really ripped the heart out of the show, made it COLD.

    Now get Paula back on the show, Nigel!

  7. Actually, I believe Ellen's decision was mutual with the PTB for real. The one article has sources saying that she and Simon didn't have a good rapport from the get-go. She rearranged her schedule to shoot her show earlier so she could do Idol during Hollywood, was on time and ready to take it seriously and Simon arrived 1 and a half hours late the first day. She thought he was a preima donna (which he is). Also, she felt belittled by the rest of the judges at times, felt out of her depth off the cuff and started planning in advance what she was going to say and didn't like that, and basically ended up not liking to criticize the contestants.

    I will be willing to bet the PTB weren't interested in what she thought ought to be done for the next season and she didn't increase the ratings even though she is well-liked personally. Also, it can't have been lost on Ellen that the public opinion was that she's great on her own show but not a good judge on Idol.

    I think they would have kept her because she had one more year on her contract, except that they mutually agreed it wasn't working out.

    - MaryS

  8. I'm glad Ellen is gone. I know she has alot of fans, but I'm not one anymore. I lost all respect for her after watching her on Idol this past year. I don't think she was qualified to be a judge in the first place and she brought nothing to the table in my opinion..."Yes, as a matter of fact I have loved a woman." WHAT the heck kind of critique of a performance is that?

  9. See ya, Ellen!!

  10. Mary S. I agree it was likely a mutual decision. Ellen is a good person at heart, and if she looked back at how low she sunk to conform with the gang, she'd have to see that there was a whole lot of ugly. It's one thing when you criticize someone and their feelings get hurt as a result. It's another thing when you purposely try to hurt someone with nasty comments masked as criticism. Is it worth working overtime to be a part of that circus? She's got enough money to just walk away.

  11. @CJFan_Audrey (Twitter)July 31, 2010 at 9:48 AM

    I truly love Ellen,....on HER show in a comedic-format. During the season however, I did feel that she wasn't a great fit for the show. No one wants to see nice, loveable, funny Ellen hurt someone's feelings. It's just NOT what she is about. In addition, her feedback to contestants, was majority of the time, weak. Yes, she had the perspective of a regular viewer, but for whatever reason she couldn't deliver on valuable feedback. Most of the time I felt she just regurgitated exactly what Randy said right before her. The comedy-effect of her being on the show was just 'okay'. If anything, Simon's comments were funnier than hers. I love Ellen though and will see her on her show :)

  12. I always liked Ellen, but not after watching her on Idol. She wasn't any better then the other judges. She carried on and belittled constestants just like the other 3 did...sorry, but it was a huge turn-off for me. I'm sure it didn't hurt her career, as many people do love her...I'm just not one of them anymore. I'm glad she is off the show.

  13. Reading the comments on Ellen, Let me explain here, Al is a setup deal. I think ellen never realise what she was getting her self into. Al is script and so many knew this and it was hush hush behind the scenes. The producers and others like Nigel, past years knew how the outcome with the show was going to be.The voting range was just to get known for their ratings. Votes didn,t mean anything to them. They wanted the panel to say what they wanted them yo say. Idol knew before hand who the winner was going to be; no matter how much anyone voted. I believe ellen found she was out of place and couldn't really hurt the contestants fellings, so she couldn't really go against idol when she was on their show. She had to do what they say. I'm glad that she is leaving because I wouldn't want any part of it either.