It feels like just yesterday we were discovering Glambert for the very first time, and yet here we are, 120 hours away from a brand-new season of American Idol. The only judges people give a damn about (sorry Randy and Kara), Simon Cowell and Ellen DeGeneres, sat down with Entertainment Weekly to dish about Idol‘s ninth season. And surely, Simon did everything possible to dampen speculation about his impending exit, right? Right?
Ellen kicks off the Q&A by stepping immediately into a very Abdulic “kind judge” persona, suggesting that she may begin her Idol tenure with a light touch. But the jolly daytime queen insists that her tolerance is not limitless. “If someone’s a real jerk, I’m not going to expose them,” Ellen tells EW. But: “I may change my mind if they really are a jerk.“
Cowell continues: “They’re very media savvy, these contestants. You never really get to know much about them because they’re aware of themselves and they’re always nice to you. It’s only afterwards that it all changes.”
EW asks Ellen how she feels about possibly continuing Idol without Cowell, who continues to smirk his way through every discussion about whether he’ll stay on after his contract expires next year. Simon predictably plays coy when it comes to honestly discussing whether he’ll stick around or pull the golden ripcord and bolt Idol to work on a U.S. version of his British TV talent competition/mint, The X Factor:
DeGeneres: If Simon goes, I go!
Cowell: [Laughs] Oh, Ellen!
DeGeneres: I will not be there without Simon.
Cowell: That’s quite a tricky situation you’ve put me into! I think right now we have to concentrate on the next season and just get through that and worry about everything else afterwards.
Doesn’t exactly suggest he’s going to stay, does it? But we wouldn’t read too much into it just yet. Incidentally, Fox may be preparing for the post-Simon era (or else, trying to put the screws to Cowell) by tweaking the show’s production style. According to Popeater’s Naughty But Nice blog, sources reveal that the show will place an even brighter spotlight on the contestants than usual in a bid to minimize Cowell’s star power (and good luck with that):
“Expect to see less and less of Simon this season. The focus is going to be back on the contestants and less on Simon’s harsh criticisms of them,” an insider tells me. “They also will be spending more time focusing on Ellen once she gets through her first few weeks live from Hollywood.”
That’s a lot of pressure to put on a new judge, and the hype surrounding Kara this same time last year quickly curdled into full-fledged hate once the show began. But somehow we think history won’t repeat itself with Ellen — she’s already a trusted brand herself, and the chances of her embarrassing herself in a bikini at the season finale is about a bajillion to one.
Read Simon and Ellen’s entire interview in Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands tomorrow.