Paula Abdul hits a sour note on ailing "Idol"

Thu May 1, 2008 1:16am EDT
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By James Hibberd

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Scandal has always suited "American Idol." From accusations of voting irregularities to the secret personal histories of contestants, Fox's unequaled reality hit produces a flurry of new controversies every season.

Judge Paula Abdul alone has been responsible for countless woozy YouTube moments and at least one severe alleged infraction -- a reported romantic relationship with a contestant during the show's second season.

The more alarmed and critical the media headlines, the more "Idol" has thrived in the ratings.

"'Idol' is all about cast and controversy," said Fox president of alternative entertainment Mike Darnell in a recent interview. "So as soon as you get the right ingredients, the ratings go up again."

But with the show's viewership levels currently at historic lows, will the latest "Idol" incident give the show a curiosity-driven viewership bump? Or further discourage its maturing audience?

On Tuesday's episode, a last-minute procedural change resulted in the judges critiquing contestants' first round of performances instead of waiting until the end of the second round. Abdul gave a negative review of contestant Jason Castro's two songs.

The only problem: Castro had sung only one song.

His second performance -- of Neil Diamond's "September Morn" -- was from the "Idol" rehearsal and was scheduled for later during the show. Judges are supposed to base their critiques on how contestants perform during the live telecast, not the rehearsal.   Continued...

<p>Paula Abdul arrives to attend the 35th annual FiFi awards to honor the fragrance industry's creative achievements in New York May 31, 2007. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>