DeGeneres' "Idol" gig splits fans but brings buzz

Thu Sep 10, 2009 6:10pm EDT
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The stunning choice of comedian and chat show host Ellen DeGeneres as the new judge on TV show "American Idol" appeared set to revive interest in the top-rated talent show after three years of falling ratings.

DeGeneres, one of the most popular TV chat show hosts in the United States, will replace Paula Abdul in the four-person panel when the competition returns for a ninth season in January on the Fox network.

DeGeneres, who has no musical background but says she is an avid fan of the show, told "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest on Thursday that she would be the people's voice on the panel.

"I'm just a fan like everyone else," she told Seacrest in an interview on his Los Angeles morning radio show. "The people choose. Ultimately it comes down to them, not some executive in the music industry. I hope to be that voice."

Mike Darnell, president of alternative entertainment for Fox, said producers felt that "her vast entertainment experience -- combined with her quick wit and passion for music -- will add a fresh new energy to the show."

The move, just five weeks after the volatile Abdul quit abruptly after failing to get a big pay raise, sent shockwaves through fans and media watchers.

"My first reaction was: surprise, bogglement and skepticism," wrote Time magazine's TV correspondent James Poniewozik. "Which honestly, probably means that it's an excellent choice, at least from the standpoint of getting viewers."

"American Idol," which has produced multi-platinum artists like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, has been the most popular TV show in America for six years and is also broadcast in more than 100 nations overseas.   Continued...

<p>Ellen DeGeneres arrives at the 16th Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Party to celebrate the Academy Awards at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, California February 24, 2008. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>