Editor's note: After this story was published, Simon Cowell announced during the Television Critics Association Press Tour that this season will be his last on "American Idol" so he can launch a Stateside version of "The X Factor" in 2011.
What would "American Idol" be like without Simon Cowell?
Well, viewers might find out far sooner than they'd like, with Cowell's brother Tony saying last month that Simon will leave "Idol" after this season to focus on the U.S. version of "The X Factor." New judge Ellen DeGeneres, for her part, resisted the move, telling Entertainment Weekly, "If Simon goes, I go! I will not be there without Simon."
Original judge Randy Jackson, however, isn't making any promises until he is positive Cowell is on his way out the door.
"Until I really hear it from him, I'm not going to believe any rumors or believe anything," Jackson said when we caught up with him Friday. "There's so many rumors and speculation about everything going on."
It's been a rumor-filled offseason, with Cowell's "Idol" future in question and Paula Abdul's next move up in the air. But Jackson only has one focus: the new season, which kicks off Tuesday at 8 p.m.
"The thing that I've just been saying is, we've got an exciting, very different season nine going on to the show, and I think it's the best talent show that there is, and I'm just looking forward to the season," he said. "Because, you know, the rumors get so wild and crazy, you just don't know what to believe."
Jackson wants to make sure fans stay on track and enjoy the season, without focusing on the possible revolving door of judges.
"In terms of the show, I'm sure it's pretty much a distraction, because people get a little sidetracked with that," he said of the rumors. "I mean, there are contestants. 'Wait a minute, this is a singing competition!' [Laughs.] What is this really about? Not to belittle what we do, because I think the show is completely about the four of us judges and Ryan and also the contestants, but let's also focus on what we're judging and what the actual more meat of the show really is. It's about finding that next superstar talent."
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