Chances are good that hard-core "American Idol" watchers wouldn't be satisfied with anyone producers signed up to replace beloved original panelist Paula Abdul.
But the announcement on Wednesday that comedian/talk show host Ellen DeGeneres — an avowed huge fan of the show — will be taking the fourth judge's seat for season nine brought at best a mixed reaction, at worst a chorus of boos and concerns that she might throw a wrench in the works. (MTV News' Jim Cantiello has his opinions as well.)
"I think [the powers that be] had their sights set on hiring an A-lister rather than say, a pop singer who has seen better days [which Abdul arguably was]," wrote MJ Santilli, founder of the popular "Idol" blog MJsBigBlog.com. "Ellen does have a fan base all her own, and the curiosity factor will bring in viewers. Plus, Ellen will pimp the hell out of the show (she kinda already does) on her talk show. But man, she really was awkward and unfunny when she guest-judged on ['So You Think You Can Dance'] over the summer, so I hope that she brushes up on her skills between now and November."
Producers announced that DeGeneres would join the show after the initial audition rounds were shot, and according to MJ, the former sitcom star has signed a five-year deal for "Idol," which she will appear on in addition to continuing her daily talk show.
MJ wondered how and if DeGeneres would fit into the mix of music-industry professionals Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi. "So, is she going to be a real judge or some kind of joke?," MJ wondered. "She's a comedian, not a singer or a musician. I'm kinda flummoxed here."
To her credit, DeGeneres said in announcing the move that she has watched every episode of the show, and another superblogger fan, Rickey of Rickey.org, couldn't have been more excited about the news. "Ellen DeGeneres is the new fourth judge! Hallelujah!" he wrote. "Thank you Paula Abdul! 'American Idol' 9 will be the best season ever!"
Some of Rickey's followers weren't so sure, with one, Talea Gokey, opining, "Might as well put in Dakota Fanning, the cast of iCarly, my auntie Joy, and my neighbor's dog on the panel too. If Ellen, with NO MUSICAL BACKGROUND can be a judge, then all the people I've listed can too."
The assessments weren't so harsh from commenter Idolchatter, who wrote, "I think this is great! What advice did Paula ever really give anyway? Randy and Simon take care of that ... Ellen loves music, she's a fan of the show ... she'll be funny and intelligent and most important, I won't have to fast-forward anymore !!!"
The comments on MJ's site ran a similar gamut, from fans who said DeGeneres would be a breath of fresh air thanks to her love of contemporary music to those who thought her energetic input would make the show more entertaining, from those who felt she might make the show run even longer than last season and some who feared DeGeneres' starpower would take the spotlight off the intended stars of the show: the contestants.
After some time to sleep on it, MJ told MTV News on Thursday (September 10) that she still thought the hire was "odd" and potentially divisive. "There are people who like her [DeGeneres] and I like her, and she's a very powerful woman, so I can see wanting to bring someone still famous onto the panel over someone like Cyndi Lauper or Taylor Dayne [who were also mentioned as possible replacements]," MJ said. "I just don't think she'll have that much to say and will be nice all the time, maybe crack a few jokes, but it will be empty."
Mostly, MJ said she doesn't see the point of filling out the panel with someone who essentially represents the audience thanks to their love of the show. "We [the audience] already have a role, we call in to vote every week, we get our say," said MJ. "We don't need to be represented on the panel."
Worst of all, MJ worried that DeGeneres might hold back in her comments in order to avoid alienating fans of her daytime talk show. "In season five, Taylor Hicks fans said they wouldn't watch her show because [DeGeneres] was a Daughtry fan," MJ noted. "So I think she might pull her punches a lot to avoid pissing off fans of her show."
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