Ellen DeGeneres Follows Simon’s Lead, Leaves ‘American Idol’

Becky Bain | July 29, 2010 5:36 pm

When Ellen DeGeneres asked Simon Cowell on her first day judging American Idol, “So this is it. I come on, you leave?”, we had a sinking feeling that the daytime talk show host was already disappointed with the gig she just signed on for. And now it’s been confirmed: Ellen is leaving Idol after only one season. What happened?

“A couple months ago, I let FOX and the American Idol producers know that this didn’t feel like the right fit for me,” DeGeneres said in a statement. “I told them I wouldn’t leave them in a bind and that I would hold off on doing anything until they were able to figure out where they wanted to take the panel next. It was a difficult decision to make, but my work schedule became more than I bargained for.”

“I also realized this season that while I love discovering, supporting and nurturing young talent, it was hard for me to judge people and sometimes hurt their feelings,” she continues. “I loved the experience working on Idol and I am very grateful for the year I had, I am a huge fan of the show and will continue to be.”

Although we’re sure Ellen is being truthful, we also think she got scared off by the prospect of climbing aboard a Simon-less ship that’s beginning to sink. When she first signed onto the show, she had no idea the show’s stalwart captain would be calling it quits by the end of the season. And after the last lukewarm year that was generally dismissed by the public, there’s no reason to stick around to be beaten by The X Factor once it premieres on U.S. airwaves.

And now that Ellen no longer has to defend her music cred to anyone, we have to wonder if she’ll still be making sweet music with Greyson Chance, or with anyone for that matter, on her brand new label.

But what does both Ellen and Simon’s departure mean for the future of Idol? First of all, it’s pretty awful press—the show that everyone once loved now can’t even get its judges to stay, even with multi-million dollar paydays as compensation.

Since even last year’s champ Lee DeWyze thinks Simon is irreplaceable, the pressure of replacing the show’s beloved nasty Brit is lightened if producers decide just to start from scratch. It seems that Fox’s wisest move in salvaging the show would be to follow Nigel Lythgoe’s plan to wipe the board clean and get a whole new lineup of judges (which could include the likes of Jessica Simpson and Diddy, two musical personalities who are no stranger to reality TV).

If a complete redo of the judges table comes to pass, at least we know Kara DioGuardi will still get work writing hit songs for other people to sing. And as for Randy Jackson… maybe he can design his own line of dawg houses?