Auditions for the 10th season of "American Idol" already kicked off in Nashville last week, but there has still been no word on who will replace departed lead judge Simon Cowell come January.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the acerbic Brit's chair could be filled by one of a trio of American musicians whose experience in the pop culture machine has given them plenty of expertise on what it takes to make it.
Though they've been typically tight-lipped about who might be in the running, the Fox network has reportedly been set on finding a well-known music-industry figure to take over the lead chair, with names such as former Sony Music boss Tommy Mottola and Madonna manager Guy Oseary popping up in the rumor mill.
But the Reporter said that it is "Wicked Game" singer Chris Isaak who has emerged as a leading contender after meeting with show runners twice so far in pursuit of the gig. The soft-spoken Isaak — who has also acted on shows such as "Cold Case" and "Smallville," and hosted his Showtime series, "The Chris Isaak Show" — certainly has the industry background and camera-ready personality. But another crooner, past "Idol" mentor and amiable modern-swing singer Harry Connick Jr., has also reportedly been considered.
Though he's publicly coveted the position and was "given the once-over" according to the Reporter, Poison singer and reality-show star Bret Michaels is said to be out of the running. "The Apprentice" boss Donald Trump has also reportedly lobbied for the job, though given his longtime association with NBC, the continued success of his signature show and his lack of music experience, he seems an unlikely choice.
Adding to the tension, Cowell is casting around for judges for the launch of the U.S. version of his singing competition, "The X Factor," and the long-simmering rivalry between "Idol" executive producer Simon Fuller and Cowell is said to have set off a tug-of-war over at least one desirable candidate that both shows are eyeing. A spokesperson for "Idol" could not be reached for comment at press time.
Fox told the Reporter that no decision is imminent, but the network's new entertainment chairman, Peter Rice, said he expects the new "Idol" judge to be in place by early September in order to take part in the audition process.
Who do you think should replace Simon on "Idol"? Write your comments below.