Fans Divided About Ellen DeGeneres As 'Idol' Judge

Ellen DeGeneres wants to represent the people on “American Idol,” but the people are split about the talk show host’s role as the FOX singing competition’s fourth judge.

Fans took to the Internet after Wednesday’s announcement to express either pleasant surprise or total shock that DeGeneres was picked to replace Paula Abdul.

“I mean, really? Ellen DeGeneres?” wrote popular “Idol” blogger MJ Santilli at mjsbigblog.com. “She guest judged ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ last season, and her critiques were comic relief. So is she going to be a real judge or some kind of joke? She’s a comedian, not a singer or a musician. I’m kinda flummoxed here.”

Others on the Internet, including posters on the AmericanIdol.com forums, said they were pleased that DeGeneres, who admittedly has no formal music experience, just a passion for tunes, would join Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi on “Idol.”

Andy Dehnart, a reality television blogger at realityblurred.com, praised the “somewhat random” decision. He called it a 90-degree turn that would give the aging singing contest new life and may prompt more viewers to tune in when DeGeneres first appears during the semifinal rounds, which tend to be the snooziest part of the season.

“Hopefully, I’m the people’s point of view because I’m just like you,” DeGeneres said on her syndicated talk show Thursday. “I sit at home and I watch it, and I don’t have that technical … I’m not looking at it in a critical way from the producer’s mind. I’m looking at it as a person who is going to buy the music and is going to relate to that person.”

DeGeneres’ hiring as the show’s fourth judge all but seals the departure of Abdul, the original third judge who announced she was quitting amid a contract dispute in July.

Abdul had served as judge alongside Cowell and Jackson since the show’s debut in 2002. Producers shook up the franchise last season by adding songwriter DioGuardi as a fourth judge.

Since departing “Idol,” Abdul has gone diva, filming a cameo for Lifetime’s “Drop Dead Diva” as a gavel-banging, glammed-up version of herself and signing on to host the live “VH1 Divas” concert on Sept. 17.

Abdul has yet to announce a steady job to replace her role on the FOX singing contest, but she told TV Guide last week she’d like to host a talk show.

Abdul had been replaced by a succession of guest judges across the country as “Idol” started next season’s auditions, which will air in January. Among them: former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, Mary J. Blige, Joe Jonas, Neil Patrick Harris, Katy Perry and Shania Twain — but not the 51-year-old DeGeneres, who will join the ninth season following the show’s tryout rounds.

It won’t be DeGeneres’ first time in a reality TV judge’s seat — or on “Idol.” She served as a guest judge earlier this summer on “So You Think You Can Dance,” critiquing the dancing competition’s top eight finalists. In 2007, she was the co-host of “Idol Gives Back,” the singing contest’s charity event. She returned the next year in a pre-taped segment.

DeGeneres has enjoyed a successful reign as the host of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” for the past six years, although her four-year streak as the Daytime Emmy winner for talk show host ended this year when Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Sherri Shepherd and Barbara Walters from ABC’s “The View” were awarded the prize for the first time.

Idol producers backed their pick of DeGeneres.

“Beyond her incredible sense of humor and love of music, she brings with her an immense warmth and compassion that is almost palpable,” said “Idol” executive producer and FremantleMedia North America CEO Cecile Frot-Coutaz in a statement. “She is one of America’s foremost entertainers, and we cannot wait to have her join our team.”

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