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Paula Abdul has been on American Idol since day one. Is she out the door?
I think many of us who follow this sort of thing assumed that the ongoing back-and-forth between Paula Abdul and American Idol over her contract for the upcoming season was so much highly visible posturing. But maybe not.
Tonight, Abdul took to her Twitter feed to announce, "With sadness in my heart, I've decided not to return to Idol." At first, it seemed like this too might be posturing, but then Fox made a statement seemingly accepting her tweet of resignation. With the season's auditions starting within days, this is either a massive and high-risk attempt at bluff-calling on one or both sides, or she's really going.
If she does, that wouldn't seem to be good for anybody. It's not good for her, because she isn't as valuable anywhere else as she is on that show. And it's not good for the show, because for all her periodic incoherence, she had — not a a heart of gold, but perhaps a heart of mashed potatoes, the fluffy and inoffensively comforting nature of which provided balance to the more aggressive judging from the rest of the panel (which will now apparently be made up of Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, and Kara DioGuardi, who was new last year).
Moreover, she's the only one on the panel with a legitimate — if brief — history as a pop star. The Paula Abdul moment, around the time she had a hit with"Straight Up," may have been a short one, but it existed. Now, they're left with a panel of industry people — people who do production and songwriting, but who haven't had success taking the stage to perform as solo artists, which is, after all, what the winner is supposed to do. Granted, worrying about the credibility of the American Idol judging panel is a little like worrying about the cleanliness of your hovel, but nevertheless, it doesn't help.
It remains to be seen whether the next 48 hours will suddenly bring more flexibility on someone's part. But when Abdul says she's leaving and it's a done deal, and her employer says she's leaving and it's a done deal, it takes a real optimist (or pessimist, depending on your position regarding Paula Abdul) (understanding that you may well not have one) to assume you'll be seeing her judge this year's crop of caterwaulers.
(You can read another take on this from Andrew Wallenstein of The Hollywood Reporter here.)