‘American Idol’ To Continue With Or Without Simon Cowell

Show will reportedly get renewed whether Cowell is onboard or not.

Paula Abdul might get her second chance yet. Just two days after [url id=”http://www.mtv.com/news/topic/american_idol/index.jhtml”]”American Idol”[/url] judge Simon Cowell’s brother Tony announced that the notoriously prickly British judge will leave the talent show at the end of his contract in 2010, The Hollywood Reporter reported that the Fox network is close to a deal that would keep the #1 show on American television on the air for at least three more seasons, whether Cowell is onboard or not.

Fox’s current deal with the producers of “Idol” runs through the end of 2011, but the network is reportedly hashing out a new arrangement that could include three more seasons of the star-making program. Neither “Idol” producers nor Cowell have officially commented on the rumors of the judge’s plans to leave the show.

Cowell, who makes $35 million a year to judge “Idol,” is reportedly keen to bring his U.K. hit music competition “The X Factor” to the U.S. The show, a huge hit in England, is similar to “Idol,” with the added twist of celebrity mentors who coach their protégés. Should Cowell defect, “Idol” would be left with only one of its original three judges, musician/producer Randy Jackson, following the surprise departure of Paula Abdul at the end of the most recent season. Abdul will be replaced by talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres this season, who will sit alongside returning second-year judge, songwriter Kara DioGuardi.

Though often booed and taunted by the crowd, Cowell is the show’s most trusted voice when it comes to giving unvarnished advice and criticism to the contestants. According to the Reporter, Fox was originally planning to bring “Factor” for the fall of 2010, but delays have pushed it back to a likely 2011 debut. Cowell quitting “Idol” at the end of the upcoming season could give the “Factor” debut added attention, which is why Fox is considering having him take a smaller role on “Idol” in 2011, such as judging the Hollywood rounds but not auditions, in order to keep the franchise strong.

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