While the ostensible point of Wednesday night's [url id="http://www.mtv.com/news/topic/american_idol/index.jhtml"]"American Idol"[/url] finale was to decide the fates of Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox, the evening's spotlight returned again and again to Simon Cowell. Before the acerbic yet somehow lovable British judge left to jumpstart another Fox show, "Idol" celebrated his nine seasons of work with video segments, comedic bits and an appearance by former judge — and frequent Cowell sparring partner — Paula Abdul.
We're gonna miss the guy, with his ludicrously unbuttoned dress shirts and surly witticisms. It's an open question whether the show can survive without him, especially coming off a season that almost everyone can agree was lackluster at best and soul-crushing at worst. We worry about what "Idol" will be like without Cowell there to speak the truth in that inimitable style of his.
As Simon Cowell leaves us behind — not to return until late in 2011 with "The X Factor" — MTV News took a look back at the most memorable moments from his "Idol" tenure.
The Kiss: For years, Cowell and Abdul's half-flirty, half-cruel, entirely entertaining relationship was the most riveting element of the show. Good singers and horrible singers came and went, but there was always Cowell and Abdul alternating between acting like a bickering married couple or elementary-school-aged siblings. In season two, they filmed a skit that hilariously brought everything out into the open: They'd been carrying on a secret affair the entire time. And to prove it, they shared a sloppy kiss over a dinner of champagne and whipped cream. No matter that it turned out to be Simon's dream (or nightmare).
The Bush Baby: Cowell's judging style has always toed the line between scathing and inappropriate. The audition phase of the contest always brings out Simon's prickly side, and during season six, he ended up going too far with his insults when he ripped contestant Kenneth Swale (a.k.a. Kenneth Briggs).
"You look a little odd, your dancing is terrible, the singing was horrendous, and you look like one of those creatures that live in the jungle with the massive eyes," Cowell told him. "What are they called? Bush babies."
Not cool, Simon, not cool.
"You're sick," Abdul told him.
The Teletubbies Attack and the Sweetheart Swipe: "Idol" contestants go insult-for-insult with Cowell at their own peril. Shoot, even Ryan Seacrest has courted danger when he went after the Brit judge. Simon abuses people for a living — the guy knows what he's doing. But one night on season six, both a contestant and Seacrest came out on the winning end of a battle with Cowell.
It all got started when Cowell told Chris Sligh, "I kinda felt I was at some weird student gig."
One of his finer insults this wasn't, and he followed it up by condescendingly calling Seacrest "sweetheart."
"Don't call me sweetheart," Ryan responded. "We don't have that kind of relationship. I don't want that kind of relationship."
Perhaps feeling emboldened, Sligh then pulled out an insult that referenced two of Cowell's more embarrassing career achievements. "I guess my only question is, like, obviously audiences think that this kind of music is very popular right now," he said. "And what I have to say right now is just because I don't sing Il Divo or Teletubbies doesn't mean I'm not a good singer."
The Bigger Stage: When in doubt, Cowell resorts to insults about a contestant's appearance. Sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's just plain mean. One night in season five, it was both. After Mandisa Hundley delivered a killer take on Alicia Keys' "Fallin'," Cowell waited until the singer had left the audition room to zing her.
"Do we have a bigger stage this year?" he asked.
"She's like Frenchie," Abdul added, referencing the season-two plus-size singer.
"Forget Frenchie, she's like France," Simon quipped.
And All Those Other Insults: Who are we kidding? It's impossible to choose just five moments from this guy's "Idol" career. There are simply too many deliciously vicious insults. Here are a few of our favs.
To season three's Ashley Thomas: "What that reminded me of when I was sitting here was, like, instead of being on the stage of 'American Idol,' you're at a local rodeo, you'd just been crowned the prom queen, and it was like the song before you lasso a bull."
To season five's Bucky Covington: ''I've got to talk about this Jessica Simpson hairstyle. I mean, seriously, that has got to go!''
To season five's Bobby Bennett: "If you hear a scream from a hotel room in Las Vegas, that's where Barry Manilow's watching this show. ... Horror films entertain me. You know, it's a different kind of entertainment."
To season six's Haley Scarnato: "Can I tell you the problem? Do you know what I said to Paula halfway through the song? I don't know your name."
To season seven's Ashley Lawing: "I'm going to steal your dog."
To season seven's Kristy Lee Cook: "You sounded like Dolly Parton on helium."
Share your favorite Simon Cowell insults in the comments below.
Get your "Idol" fix on MTV News' "American Idol" page, where you'll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.