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Ellen DeGeneres replacing Paula Abdul as new 'American Idol' judge


By Christopher Rocchio, 09/10/2009 

Ellen DeGeneres is replacing Paula Abdul on American Idol.

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Fox has announced that the comedian and daytime talk show host will be a regular member of American Idol's judging panel when the reality series ninth season premieres in January.

"I could not be more excited to have Ellen join the American Idol family," Idol creator and executive producer Simon Fuller said. "Ellen has been a fan of the show for many years, and her love of music and understanding of the American public will bring a unique human touch to our judging panel. I can't wait for this next season to begin."

DeGeneres revealed the news while taping Thursday's The Ellen DeGeneres Show episode on Wednesday.

"Reality TV.  You never know what's going to happen on reality TV.  I love reality TV myself," said DeGeneres during the taping.

"Well I have a big announcement to make and no one knows this... I just finally got the okay moments ago to announce this to you today.  Oh god... I am going to be the new judge on American Idol."

DeGeneres said she's thrilled to land a regular role on Idol's judging panel and added the announcement was a long-time coming.

"I don't know how it happened myself," she said.

"We've been dealing with this for the last couple of weeks and I've been dying to tell everyone.  It's just been so hard to keep it a secret and we just finally got the okay.  I'm so excited.  It's going to be so much fun."

DeGeneres will serve as a member of Idol's judging panel along with returning members Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi, but she said she hopes to provide a different type of feedback than what viewers are used to.

"I have not missed one episode of that show.  I've watched every single thing.  I love everything about it.  I love music, as you know," she said.

"Hopefully I'm the people's point of view, because I'm just like you.  I sit at home and I watch it.  I don't have that technical... I'm not looking at it in a critical way from the music producer's mind.  I'm looking at it as a person who's going to buy the music and who's going to relate to that person.  So I'm hopefully going to be that voice of what we're all doing at home."

DeGeneres' announcement was met with wild applause from the studio audience, and she explained to them the news doesn't mean she'll be leaving her talk show.

"I'm not leaving here.  Don't worry about that," she said.  "I'm going to have a day job and a night job.  That's the times we're living in.  We're all doing that."

While DeGeneres had never previously served as an American Idol judge, she did serve as host of Idol Gives Back's concert special in 2007. 

Although she was tapped to helm the second Idol Gives Back concert special last year, the role was subsequently given to Ryan Seacrest after DeGeneres reportedly "couldn't do it due to personal production pressure."

In addition, DeGeneres served as a So You Think You Can Dance guest judge during this past summer's edition of the Fox reality dance competition.

"We are thrilled to have Ellen DeGeneres join the American Idol judges' table this season," said Fox reality chief Mike Darnell.

"She is truly one of America's funniest people and a fantastic performer who understands what it's like to stand up in front of audiences and entertain them every day. We feel that her vast entertainment experience -- combined with her quick wit and passion for music -- will add a fresh new energy to the show."

Due to her syndicated The Ellen DeGeneres Show talk show, which premiered in September 2003, DeGeneres has interviewed numerous reality stars over the years. 

One of her most memorable moments came when she called The Bachelor eleventh-season star Brad Womack a "jerk" for rejecting both DeAnna Pappas and Jenni Croft.  She subsequently apologized and invited Womack onto the show to clear the air.  Two months later, The Bachelor's producers also tapped DeGeneres to surprise Pappas with the news that she'd been selected to serve as The Bachelorette's fourth-season star.

The news that DeGeneres is joining Idol's judging panel came slightly more than a month after Abdul used her Twitter page to announce that she would not be returning as a judge for the show's ninth season. She reportedly rejected a $5 million a year offer to continue serving on the Fox mega-hit's judging panel.

Abdul's manager David Sonenberg recently stated there have been "no discussions whatsoever" about her return to Idol and she has expressed uncertainty about anything the show could do to bring her back.

Victoria Beckham (Denver and Boston), Mary J. Blige (Atlanta), Joe Jonas and Neil Patrick Harris (Dallas), Kristin Chenoweth (Orlando), Shania Twain (Chicago) and Katy Perry and Avril Lavigne (Los Angeles) all served as guest judges during the ninth season's recently concluded ninth-season callback auditions.

"We're all delighted to have Ellen join our ninth season of American Idol," said executive producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz. "Beyond her incredible sense of humor and love of music, she brings with her an immense warmth and compassion that is almost palpable. She is one of America's foremost entertainers, and we cannot wait to have her join our team."

(Photo credit Fox)


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