Breaking "American Idol" news: Ellen DeGeneres will take Paula Abdul's place as the show's permanent fourth judge, assuming her post right after the audition rounds. She announced the new gig during a taping of her midday talk show, which she'll continue to do, as well.
I'm baffled by the news, and a little dismayed. Yes, Ellen is one of the most engaging people on television; her talk show is lots of fun, her AmEx commercials are a hoot, and she even manages to make QVC sales entertaining. (She occasionally goes on the shopping network to hawk a line of pet food in which she has an equity stake.) But when she did a guest-judging stint on "So You Think You Can Dance" this summer, she was shockingly bad, and the problem seemed to be that she knew nothing about dance. She just kept repeating the same joke -- "I can do that" -- and then spewed forth gushing, indiscriminate praise.
Yes, Paula was all about the gushing, indiscriminate praise. But she also had a background in the music industry. When she reminded us that it's hard to sing onstage in front of teeming crowds, we knew that she spoke from experience. She was the nice, encouraging, entertainingly-loopy counterpoint to tough-love Simon, but she also represented the performer's perspective, and despite her incoherence, she often had something relevant to say. We all know that Ellen can do nice. But can she - and should she - do music? To her studio audience, Ellen suggested that she'd serve as a voice of the public: "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.” But the music-buying public already gets a voice; the audience gets to vote. And does "Idol" really need a fourth judge at all, given how often the show ran past its time slot last season? Ellen is a talk show host, after all. She's not conditioned to be concise.
Are you pleased? Aghast? Share your thoughts in the comments, and come back here at noon tomorrow to dish during our weekly TV chat.