Ellen DeGeneres, One-Season Wonder

You may have heard that Ellen DeGeneres is leaving American Idol. This makes her a much-hyped addition to a long-running show, who came in, didn’t make that much of an impact, and was gone by the next season. I’m not saying Ellen DeGeneres is Poochie, but if one of the contestants had been a rapping surfer, I’m sure she’d have approved.

Okay, unlike the typical “Poochie,” Ellen is likable and famous and already has something she’s good at, which she will concentrate on. I don’t think she was exactly terrible on the show, but she wasn’t effective enough, and she would have been really ineffective if she’d been the most prominent judge on the panel. If she’d stayed on after Cowell left, she would have, almost by default, become the “star” of the judging panel, even though she wasn’t equipped to fill that role. So she has to be considered smart for getting out now; a year without Simon would tarnish her brand by either forcing her to be nastier (ruining the image she projects on her own show) or making her into a failure.

The buzz now is over whether Fox will respond to the defection of the big-star judges by replacing just the two of them, or by dumping Randy and Kara and starting over with an all-new panel. I personally think the all-new panel is the way to go, just for the defensive potential. That is, the ratings are sure to fall next season without Cowell. If they start fresh, they might do all right, but if they don’t, they can blame it all on the fact that they were rebooting the show with new people — an excuse they will not be able to use if they keep two of the same judges.

Update: Deadline Hollywood claims that her replacement will be Jennifer Lopez.

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