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Fox Explains Ellens “American Idol” Departure

HollywoodNews.com: Ellen Degeneres had just saved American Idol from the loss of Paula Abdul when she announced that she would be leaving the show too. Last week the announcement sent the Television Critics Association buzzing as their fall press tour began. Today is Fox’s session and Fox President of Entertainment Peter Rice told the TCA that Degeneres’s departure was amicable.

“In early June I met with Ellen and we talked about the season and her feelings about the season,” Rice said. “Really, the idea was that she wasn’t comfortable, she didn’t’ feel like it was a good fit for her. I tried to persuade her it would be different in the future but we came to an agreement that we’d begin to look for new judges. As that played out over the summer, we’d either say ‘we can’t replace you’ or ‘we can move on without you.’ That’s where we got to last week.”

Announcing Ellen’s departure last week as a strategic move by Fox. They knew they were facing the press so they were ready to talk about it. “We felt confident we could come up with a panel that didn’t include Ellen as a judge and I felt it would be disingenuous to sit here and talk about Ellen being on Idol next year when that wasn’t going to be the case. We decided to announce last week. That created another round of speculation. You find out information as you should as journalists, then we have to respond. Much of the information that has been written has been accurate and some has been wildly inaccurate. I won’t get into either confirming or denying which ones they are but it does make it difficult for us in the job we’re trying to do and the business we’re trying to run.”

So they are assembling a new panel of judges to fill both Ellen and Simon’s spots, but they haven’t signed any deals. “The only thing I can tell you with absolute certainty is no one has signed a deal on either side of the camera to join American Idol who wasn’t on last year. It’s not a fun announcement. It’s certainly not the choice I would have made but it is the truth as I sit here today. There are no signed deals. There is tremendous speculation. I wish we were going to walk out a panel of judges for next year and that could be a celebration. I’m sorry that’s not going to happen. If we’d signed deals, we would have done that. We are excited about the new judging panel and we have met with a tremendous amount of people and discussed it. I don’t think we ever felt it was hard. We just unfortunately were not able to do it within the time frame of TCA.”

At least they have a time frame. Expect to hear who the new judges are by the time the finalists face them this fall. “We start auditions with the judges in September. We certainly plan to have a judges panel in place and signed by then.  I’m not going to get into that speculation and I’m not going to live in a fishbowl of a blow by blow account of casting the show right now, however much fun that might be for your readers. I recognize that that might be the truth.”

It won’t just be finding two new names though. They all have to work together as an American Idol panel. “I think the goal has to be to put on a great television show. There’s two parts of that. There’s the journey of searching for a new superstar and there’s the sort of alchemy and relationship of the judges panel. Those are the two elements of making a great TV show. It’s riveting to people and we have to service those two things. Does that mean we should replace them identically and cast the same [type of] person? I don’t think so. We have an obligation to put on the best TV show. We need to put on a panel that has great chemistry together and fills the function of being judges.”

Hopefuls from around the world are still singing their hearts out to American Idol auditions. That hasn’t changed. “We’re handling them in the way we always handled them. 16,000 people showed up in Nashville, 10,000 people showed up this weekend. The judges were never at those initial stadium calls so that’s the same as we always handled them. That process remains the same. We’ve always done them at slightly different times. Traditionally we did them in September/October period. Essentially it’s the same process we always had.”

There may be a lot of changes when American Idol returns but that’s all part of a show lasting for a decade. “Again, we have to put on a great TV show. The central conceit of the show, someone literally stands in a line in Nashville and can have a number one album 8 months later because the American public has connected with them in such an intense way, I think that’s television. It’s interactive television. It draws huge audiences and people have a connection with the show unlike almost any other show on television. That is something we have to evolve without looking at what we’ve done in the past and disregarding that. It’s going to be in its 10th season and Simon’s departure meant there was going to be a natural evolution. We would love to be celebrating its 20th in another 10 years.”

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2 Comments

  • pc
    August 3, 2010 | Permalink |

    this article is a great example of how to handle a news/press conference when you have no news to announce.

  • August 3, 2010 | Permalink |

    Wow, now that can’t even get NON qualified judges to stay!

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