Chuck Ross

What Fox Should Do About the Paula Abdul Situation

Aug 12, 2009

Based on my conversations with some Fox insiders and others close to the situation, here’s the skinny:

A number of folks at Fox were pissed when Abdul went public with her negotiations.

Personally, I think Fox is playing with fire by not re-signing her. Yes, as the show’s former showrunner, Nigel Lythgoe, has said, ‘American Idol’ is really about the contestants and their aspirational dreams, and the audience’s connection with that. 

And, as Lythgoe has also pointed out, "Idol" has been successful all over the world.

But…there have been other shows that have basically tried the ‘Idol’ format here and have failed. How much of the success of the show is because of the chemistry between the original three judges, Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell? And clearly that love/hate thing that Abdul and Cowell have going on is palpable in our living rooms.

When I mentioned that to one person close to the situation, here was the response: "Yeah, but Paula’s incredibly polarizing as well."

This person was doubtful that an accommodation will be made with Abdul to re-sign her at this point.

Indeed, another person close to the situation said that, "The list of people who have called the ‘Idol’ producers to take Paula’s place would make your head spin. It’s a Who’s Who of the music industry."

Wow. That’s quite a statement. And maybe it’s true. Let’s assume it is.

If so, here’s what I think Fox should do. One of the key elements that makes ‘Idol’ successful is the input we viewers have. Ultimately, we choose who wins.

So even though Fox didn’t ask our opinion about how important we thought it was or wasn’t to keep Paula, now that we’re affected by this mess, they should ask us to help them clean it up.

Give us a list of potential judges, give us which phone numbers to call to vote for them (or text our vote if we’re with AT&T—hey, let’s not miss a sponsorship opportunity on this) and America will decide.

Let’s have some fun. Hmm, who’s gonna be on the list? Who’s called Fox already? Maybe pop vet Tina Turner. Cyndi Lauper’s name has been bandied about. Is Fantasia available? Beyonce? Is Bette Midler still in Vegas?

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a woman. What’s Snoop Dogg doing? Or Jay-Z? Is Berry Gordy available?

And why limit it to folks in the music biz? The only reason ‘Idol’ is on American TV at all is that Rupert Murdoch gave it the high sign after hearing from his daughter Elisabeth, who had seen the U.K. version and said she thought it would be terrific here.

If they know something about music–and who among us would say we DON’T–wouldn’t we love to see a Murdoch on the judge’s panel? I don’t know about you, but I’d actually pay to see Simon mix it up with Rupert.

What’s Warren Buffett doing? Or Warren Beatty? Or Warren Moon? Warren G? Is Lesley Ann Warren busy? I KNOW Nikki Finke has strong opinions.

Can Condoleezza Rice make it out here to Hollywood a few days a week? I know that Sarah Palin can.

You get the idea.

Fox, the next move is yours. Get us a great list together, put it out there, and let us vote. America will get you the next judge on "American Idol." 

This idea has got to be incredibly seductive to anyone at Fox. No business plays the blame game better than people in Hollywood.

But this way, if ‘Idol’ now tanks, when Chase Carey goes looking to take it out on somebody and give him or her their walking papers, everyone at Fox can say, truthfully, "Hey, I didn’t pick the judge. America did. Go fire them."#


  1. That is an AWESOME idea.

  2. Don’t add anyone. Four judges are too many. THis year the show went over its time and there are only three possible positions anyway – good, bad, indifferent. Let Kara be the third judge instead of the third wheel.

  3. give her the fair raise like the guys received, she desrves that much,she helped build the show also,the good ole boy exec’s

  4. get rid of Kara bring Paula and I love the vote idea. I was a fanatic but this year I hated the four Judge thing… It was terrible and I wanted Kara OFF…

  5. Actually, both FOX and Paula Abdul have painted themselves in a corner. FOX, because they chose not to return her as judge risks the popularity of the show itself – chemistry is very important to a program, and Paula has been a part of its ongoing success. While the performers are the primary reason to watch the program, viewers like the familiarity of the judging panel – Randy, Paula and Simon. Take any one of them away, and part of the audience goes with them. Its a dangerous assumption to feel a person can be squeezed out and not be noticed. As to the money aspects, the amounts should have been equally divided – and if not, a few million distance at most. What Paula was offered was an insult as compaired to the saleries of Simon and Randy. Now lets talk about Paula’s faux pas – she should not have talked about her negotiations with FOX and Idol’s production company, Channel 19. That is purly foolish to push the network and the production company into a corner. This gave them little wiggle room and allowed confidential information to be exposed to the public. Sometimes the tactic works, sometimes it does not. During recessionary times, networks and production companies are looking to save a penny anyway they can in keeping a property in the black – and if the ad dollars are not coming in, the network and the production company are not going to put up with a tempermental star throwing a tantrum. Keep in mind as well, that the star’s behavior both on a show and behind the scenes will affect the furture work she/he gets. Become a problem star, and no-one will want to deal with you. Paula is very talented as a singer – but like it or not, in this business, she is getting old. Skewing older means a lot less work, especially for a tempermental celebrity. Paula, rebuild your relations – this is a very rough economy and many regional stars are getting the boot due to the slipping economics of the business – even maga stars are taking a hit. Now as to Idol itself, its getting long in the tooth, I’d give it three more seasons, tops, before the program is retired. Had both FOX and Paula kept their heads, the show would have a longer run. So right now, Paula’s on the ‘C’ list and Idol may have seen its best days behind it.
    – Andrew, MALL727.net –

  6. Idols popularity will definately decrease
    if they don’t bring Paula back. Seriously might as well sell anything they can for the brand this year because it
    will most likely be the last.

  7. Did you ever hear about the show runner that shot themselves in the foot?

  8. Paula should be kept on the show. I actually preferred the 3 judge show, with Randy, Simon and Paula – Four judges takes too long and they show tends to run over time. The Paula/Simon relationship is key to making the show fun to watch. After working all day, it is refreshing to have a show that’s fun and not boring. Without Paula, I think much of the show will be boring, especially in the beginning and without viewers to watch early on, the show will suffer. Why mess with success?


  10. replacements for paula abdul suck and is a stupid idea

  11. Keep Paula. Get rid of Kara. That’s my vote.

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