'American Idol' Judging Desk Down Two Seats

The TV show American Idol has lost two of its judges in two days. Both Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler have announced they're leaving the show.

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The most popular series on television is in tumult. In the last couple of days, two of the three judges on "American Idol" have quit. Watching the judges criticize the singers and each other is a big part of Idol's appeal. NPR's Neda Ulaby reports without Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez, "American Idol" is seriously short on star power.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Today's drama began with a phone call.

RYAN SEACREST: Jennifer?

JENNIFER LOPEZ: Hi.

SEACREST: Hi, it's Ryan.

ULABY: Ryan Seacrest is "American Idol's" host. He called up Lopez on his radio show, and after a few minutes of stagey sounding chitchat, mostly promoting her upcoming tour, Lopez confessed she's too busy to continue as an "American Idol" judge.

LOPEZ: Something had to give. Something has to give.

SEACREST: So does that mean we're co-workers or not?

LOPEZ: Oh...

ULABY: Jennifer Lopez was only a judge on "American Idol" for two seasons.

(SOUNDBITE OF TELEVISION PROGRAM, "AMERICAN IDOL")

LOPEZ: The whole thing just came together on that one for you. Well, you asked me about that last week, and that's it. I said find the right song, and you're going to just murder it, and you did.

ULABY: Lopez's exit seemed strange to TV critic Eric Deggins. After all, he says, "American Idol" was probably the best thing that happened to the brand known as J-Lo for quite a long time.

ERIC DEGGANS: She was putting out movies that a lot of people weren't going to see and putting out records that a lot of people weren't buying. I mean, maybe she's figured that she can, like, fly on her own now, but I think that would be kind of egotistical.

ULABY: All this is news because Fox has lost two of the most important people it relies on for the lynchpin of its programming. Steven Tyler of the band Aerosmith said he's leaving "American Idol" yesterday. As a judge, he was a compellingly skanky grandpa figure.

(SOUNDBITE OF TELEVISION PROGRAM, "AMERICAN IDOL")

STEVEN TYLER: You know what? You ought to be arrested for that voice. Do you have handcuffs?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: No, actually.

TYLER: OK, I'm just, you know...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Steven...

DEGGANS: It's obvious that him doing the show has been a real sore point with the other guys in the band, in Aerosmith.

ULABY: The question now is who can carry the biggest series on television. Rumors about possible judges are rife with names like Mariah Carey and Adam Lambert, but Deggans says he'd vote for another contestant that "American Idol" turned into a star.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Kelly Clarkson.

(APPLAUSE)

ULABY: However, "American Idol" has found its own powerful competition, and singer Kelly Clarkson is already a big part on an "American Idol" knockoff show on a rival network. Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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