Four Possible Scenarios Resulting From Paula Abdul’s “American Idol” Departure

Maura / August 5, 2009

Last night, Paula Abdul announced via Twitter that she wouldn’t be returning to American Idol to elliptically critique its singing hopefuls, a missive that was confirmed by Fox shortly after Abdul’s 140-character send-off went live. “I’ll miss nurturing all the new talent,but most of all being a part of a show that I helped from day1become an international phenomenon,” Abdul typed; “While Paula will not be continuing with us, she’s a tremendous talent and we wish her the best,” replied Fox. (Idol host Ryan Seacrest, for his part, told his Twitter followers he was “shocked and saddened.”) So what does this mean for the show, which is creaking into its ninth season with declining ratings, an increased sense of self-aggrandizement, and—now—a little less spunk? Four outcomes for this season, after the jump.

1. Nothing’s really all that different. Oh, sure, Randy will still say “dawg” about 17 times an episode, and Kara will still try to project her lack of before-the-camera stardom onto the hopefuls in front of her, and Simon will still look like he’d rather be catching the first bus that goes by the CBS Studios. And yeah, there might be a little less magic pixie dust sprinkled over the proceedings. But Fox executives and time-shifted Idol viewrs will be thrilled, because the elimination of the fourth judge means that the show might actually end on time once in a while. (Especially because that fourth judge would frequently spar with Simon in ways that indicated something was clearly wrong off-camera.)

2. The Idol producers, desperate to “hip up” the show, start filling Paula’s seat at the judging table with an ever-rotating cast of Idol bloggers. I’d better start drafting my rider!

3. Paula’s absence results in Simon getting even more bored, an ennui that’s stoked by him pretty much sitting on a couch upholstered with thousand-dollar bills, and he forces some changes into the show’s format. You just know that he’d love for America to have a Susan Boyle of its own (and sorry, Hoff, but America’s Got Talent ain’t quite cutting it). And since we’re in the second round of auditions right now, thinking about him exercising his prerogative and switch up the rules so he can bring in a few people over the show’s maximum age of 30 isn’t too far-fetched of a scenario!

4. Paula comes back, to maximum publicity and a bit of eyerolling from Kara. It’s a bit tinfoil-hattish, sure, but what is Idol without its conspiracy theories? Earlier this week, Seacrest Tweeted about Denver auditions taking place soon, and since he intimated that Randy Jackson would be in attendance, one can surmise that the second-round tryouts, where producer-picked hopefuls are actually placed in front of the judges, are starting this week. What if Paula got a few months off—until, say, the end of February, when the live episodes begin, and when her triumphant return could help jolt the ratings from their traditional post-tryout doldrums? You have to admit, it would be great publicity for the show. And Simon Cowell is nothing if not a consummate showman.

Paula Abdul [Twitter]