This week, American Idol fans received the worst, scariest news since Time Warner Cable threatened to remove the Fox Network from its channel lineup right before the AI 9 premiere. After weeks of speculation and rumor, Simon Cowell officially announced during an L.A. press conference at the Television Critics Association that the ninth season of Idol will indeed be his last. In 2011, he will leave the show to concentrate on the U.S. version of his other televised talent search, The X Factor.
This is not good news, people. To lapse into Simon-speak, if I am being honest….it is dreadful. Let’s face it, American Idol may survive the loss of Paula Abdul, the addition of Kara DioGuardi and Ellen DeGeneres, and any other type of potential jumping-sharkbait tossed its way…but it is unlikely that it will survive the departure of the one, the only, Simon Cowell.
However, American Idol will reportedly go on sans Simon in season 10, regardless of whether or not that’s such a fab idea. So I have a few suggested replacements for the judge everyone loves to hate, hates to love, and hates even more to lose:
Noel Gallagher – Thanks to Simon Cowell’s patented reality formula, every TV talent show now must have one surly, cantankerous, straight-shooting Brit on its judging panel. It’s the law. America’s Got Talent has Piers Morgan, Dancing With The Stars has Len Goodman, So You Think You Can Dance has Nigel Lythgoe, Top Model has Nigel Barker, and Gordon Ramsey has practically become his own reality brand. Therefore, I nominate this former Oasis grouch to take Simon’s seat. Noel hates everything (any rapper performing in front of Noel is in for a particularly hard unibrow-beating, judging from his anti-Glastonbury/Jay-Z remarks last year); every unminced Mancunian-brogued syllable that comes out of Noel’s mouth is pure soundbyte gold; he has some time on his rough and unmanicured hands now that Oasis have split; and he never, ever holds back (this is a guy who gleefully criticizes his own little brother, mind you). Yes, Noel Gallagher just might be Idol’s wonderwall.
Russell Brand – If Noel is unavailable, then his equally mouthy mate Russell will do nicely. Judging by this purity-ring-eschewing controversial Brit comedian’s behavior hosting the MTV Video Music Awards, Russ knows how to push buttons, get viewers talking, and generate controversy, and he clearly derives great joy from insulting just about everyone and anyone. Plus, he’s got plenty of rock ‘n’ roll swagger and stage experience and he’s engaged to season 9 Idol guest judge Katy Perry, so he could probably offer the contestants some decent performance tips between barbs. Just don’t expect the Jonas Brothers or Jordin Sparks to ever guest on Idol if Russell is around…and given Russell’s penchant for lusty language, the Fox execs better make sure there’s a tape delay on the live East Coast broadcast, too.
Kanye West – ‘Ye is pretty much a professional jerk now, so “mean judge” is the role he was born to play. Plus, his career has kind of been in downward-spiraling freefall since that Taylor Swift VMAs incident, so he could probably use the work. The possibilities for morning-after watercooler chatter and The Soup highlights are endless here. When not talking in ALL CAPS (i.e., YELLING) or lambasting the contestants for not being as much of a genius as he is, Kanye could offer critiques like: “John, imma let you finish…but Kris Allen did the best ‘Heartless’ of all time! Besides me, of course.” And whenever an African American contestant was eliminated, he could claim that “Idol doesn’t care about black people.” And then on finale night, he could bumrush the stage during the winner’s speech and demand a recount. Come on, you know it’d be awesome–as long as Kanye is never allowed to actually SING on the show ever again.
Ben Folds – The best (and some would say only) reason to watch NBC’s The Sing-Off, this piano man has worked with William Shatner and has curated the group-singing compilation Ben Folds Presents: University A Cappella!, so he knows a thing or two about both good AND bad singing. All throughout The Sing-Off, Ben was funny, likable, and tough but fair, and he gave insightful, genuinely MUSIC-BASED critiques. If Idol doesn’t hire him someday, I hope he’ll be snatched up by some other reality show in need of a truly awesome judge. Ben Folds = Great TV.
Adam Lambert – He’s famous for talking without a filter; knows this show inside and out; is tough as black-painted nails (judging from how he’s handled all the post-AMAs fallout); has thousands of followers who hang on his every word and would pick up the phone to vote for anyone he endorses; dares to dance in the path of greatness; and dresses so snazzily that he could style the contestants on the side (no more Scott MacIntyre rose-colored trousers or unflattering Ramiele Malubay high-waisted pants, if Adam had anything to do with it). Plus, due to his edgier tastes, with Mr. Glambert on board we’d see a lot more Goldfrapp-inspired electrorockers, deconstructed Johnny Cash covers, and same-sex smooches on Idol if he had a say. And finally, if Adam joined the panel then along with Randy Jackson’s catchphrases like “dawg” and “for you for me for you for me,” there’d be new ones like “it’s not that deep” and “you get it.”
Mary J. Blige – She may claim she wants no more drama, but I have a feeling there’d be plenty of TV drama if the Queen (who, like Katy Perry, served as a Paula-replacing guest judge during the season 9 audition rounds) became a permanent fixture alongside alpha-female Kara. As this poker-faced, take-no-flak interview with MJB about her guest-judging spot indicates, she’d always be “very Mary” on American Idol–and instead of a Cowell copyist..that’s just what this show needs..
David Hasselhoff – This week it was announced, in another bit of tragic judge-departure reality news, that David was vacating his seat on the America’s Got Talent judging panel, and would be replaced by the insufferable Howie Mandel. I, in turn, replaced America’s Got Talent on my DVR schedule with Groomer Has It or some such other terrible reality show, because I see no point in watching AGT ever again without the burger-scarfing, Germany-seranding wonder that is The Hoff. So Fox should snatch him up pronto, and then put it in his contract that his viral hit “Jump In My Car” be the official Idol exit song.
No One – Just cancel Idol and bring on The X Factor U.S., already. Simon Cowell is irreplaceable, period. American Idol without Simon will probably be such a stunning example of shark-jumping, Fonzie himself would balk. When Simon Cowell leaves, it’s over. Seacrest out, indeed.