Paula Abdul Pulls the Plug on Her ‘American Idol’ Gig

Paula Abdul Pulls the Plug on Her ‘American Idol’ Gig

Paula Abdul Twittered Tuesday night that she won’t be returning to American Idol next season, and though that seemed like it might be a last-ditch negotiation tactic on her part, Fox has issued a statement confirming she’s gone:

“Paula Abdul has been an important part of the American Idol family over the last eight seasons and we are saddened that she has decided not to return to the show. While Paula will not be continuing with us, she’s a tremendous talent and we wish her the best.”

Wow. I’m truly surprised that Fox and the AI producers would let the situation spin this out of control with Abdul. That she was demanding, according to rumors, to be paid as much as Simon Cowell or Ryan Seacrest – both of whom I would argue are more integral to the show than Abdul, judge Randy Jackson and most definitely newbie judge Kara DioGuardi – was unreasonable, but that the two sides couldn’t come to a compromise is ridiculous on both sides.

Abdul’s absence will be felt on Idol. DioGuardi is not a suitable replacement, as evidenced by the fact that, in most polls, the numbers of people who wanted her not to return for another season were pretty equal to the number of people who did want to see her back. If the judging table consists of only Simon, Randy and Kara for season nine, I think we viewers will really miss Paula’s loopiness, her chemistry with Simon, and, though it could be annoying when she went on and on about a certain contestant at times, her positivity.

That’s not to say Abdul isn’t replaceable. Cowell isn’t. Abdul may be, but it won’t be easy. DioGuardi didn’t click with viewers the way Abdul did. There are more rumors that an Abdul replacement will be added to the mix … last month, there were even stories that Jennifer Lopez had been approached to take over Abdul’s chair. That could have been interesting, but since J. Lo shot those murmurings down right away, it isn’t likely to happen. So, as it stands right now, we’re looking at a table of just three judges, with one who people love to hate and hate to love, one who just hasn’t bonded with viewers at all and one who seems to have three speeds: “Yo dawg, that was hot,” “Yo dawg, that was pitchy” and namechecking all the musicians he’s worked with in his career.

As for Abdul, her music career is, at best, an afterthought at this point, and while she still has her HSN jewelry line, her weekly appearances on Idol served as a (free) platform for pimping the trinkets, which she often wore on the show and even passed along to contestants.

In short, Idol needs Abdul (maybe not to the tune of the $20 million a year she reportedly demanded, but still) and Abdul needs Idol. The show’s a cash cow … hard to believe execs weren’t willing to make sure a deal happened. With ratings on the show slipping with each season, something, clearly, needs to change to keep viewers’ interest, but letting Abdul bounce isn’t that change.

Here’s hoping that in the few days left before the show officially begins auditioning for the 2010 season, savvier heads will prevail.

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