Paula Abdul Leaving 'American Idol'

Drama has been unfolding behind the scenes at Fox's American Idol. Paula Abdul announced she is leaving the show. She walked away from a new contract, a 30 percent raise and TV's highest rated show. Kim Masters, host of "The Business" on member station KCRW, talks with Linda Wertheimer about whether this is the final act for Abdul.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

"American Idol" is gearing up for its ninth season. Yesterday, Fox executives hoped to present their fall TV schedule to a gathering of critics and instead found themselves coping with questions about one of "Idol's" big stars who says she won't be coming back.

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Paula Abdul says she's leaving her job as a judge, turning down a multimillion dollar deal. Kim Masters is the host of KCRW's show "The Business" and joins us from Los Angeles with all the latest "Idol" chatter.

Hi, Kim.

KIM MASTERS: Good morning.

WERTHEIMER: So, Paula Abdul is walking away from a big paycheck. What's going on here?

MASTERS: Well, you know, there has been a lot of news and they sort of gossiped about, about how much Ryan Seacrest, the host of "American Idol," has made a deal for, how much Simon Cowell, the most notorious judge on "American Idol," has made a deal for. And the sense of it is that Paula Abdul has felt disrespected. She was supposedly offered a very significant pay raise - a 30 percent pay raise - and still did not feel that that was sufficiently respectful to bring her back for the ninth season.

WERTHEIMER: So do you think this is like a tactic, something that keeps the show in the headlines in the off season or is this real?

MASTERS: I don't think it's necessarily Fox's tactic. I think it is probably Paula Abdul's tactic. She has a new representative who's bargaining for her. I think he has probably told her that if Ryan Seacrest is worth a deal, that's supposedly a $45 million deal, that she is worth more than the reported maybe $9 million or $10 million that she was being offered. You know, it's tough when you have to settle for that kind of change.

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WERTHEIMER: Yeah. Absolutely.

MASTERS: And, you know, I do think that she may have overplayed her hand here, but I think that the idea that the door is totally closed - I'm a little skeptical.

WERTHEIMER: Now, I think we ought to listen to the lady at work. And this is the seventh season. She's critiquing teenage "Idol" contestant David Archuleta.

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Ms. PAULA ABDUL (As herself): I want to just squish you, squeeze your head off and dangle you from my rearview mirror.

MASTERS: Yes, dangle him from her rearview mirror. You know, she was - Paula Abdul was always relied upon to be the kind of dotty aunt at the family picnic. You never knew what she was going to say. Some people see her as the heart of the show. She was always sort of reliably nice. You knew you were really bad if she couldn't find something nice to say about you. And people kind of watched to see this train wreck. It was - and also to see her constant bickering with Simon Cowell. So you take that chemistry out, you know, it's risky for Fox.

WERTHEIMER: And this is a major cash cow, "American Idol," for Fox. So do you think that they really will let her walk away? Are they taking a chance?

MASTERS: Well, at the meeting you mentioned earlier yesterday the top Fox executives were very careful to say that this was her decision and they were sad that she had made this decision. So they were certainly trying to keep a poker face on.

But it seemed to me the door is just a little bit ajar if she wants to do, you know, what Alex Rodriguez did a couple of years ago in his negotiation with the Yankees. They went out, said he didn't want to come back. The Yankees said have a nice life. And then he put something on his Web site saying he actually did want to come back. And we saw what happened there.

WERTHEIMER: Thanks very much, Kim.

MASTERS: Thank you, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: Kim Masters is the host of KCRW's The Business.

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