Ellen passes "American Idol" audition, viewers up

Wed Feb 10, 2010 2:04pm EST
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Comedian Ellen DeGeneres finally took her seat at the "American Idol" judging table, boosting audiences for the aging singing contest but dividing critics and fans in her nationwide audition on the most-watched TV show in the United States.

Some 27.7 million Americans tuned in for the debut of DeGeneres, according to early ratings data on Wednesday, up 12 percent from last week and the second biggest audience since the season premiere in January.

Tuesday's audience was also up four percent from last year at this stage of Fox television's five-month search for the next potential pop star, Fox said.

DeGeneres, who has her own popular daytime TV talk show, replaced Paula Abdul who quit last year in a contract dispute. One fan on the official AmericanIdol.com online forum commented on Wednesday. "Like Ellen, but not the same without Paula."

Fellow "Idol" judge Kara DioGuardi told journalists on Wednesday she thought DeGeneres brought humor to the show and said viewers should give her a chance.

"The show viewers see is edited in a specific way... But I felt sitting next to her that she had a good handle on whether a contestant had potential, whether they had star quality," DioGuardi said in a conference call.

"I think Paula and Ellen are completely different and I think they both bring something valuable to the table. To judge on one show is very difficult to do. I think (Ellen) did an incredible job for her first time there," she said.

The success of DeGeneres, 52, is seen as key to "American Idol's" future given slipping ratings since 2006 and the upcoming departure in May of acid-tongued British judge Simon Cowell, arguably one of the show's biggest attractions.   Continued...