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‘No Deal in Place’ for Any New ‘Idol’ Judge — Including Lopez

Ellen on Thursday bailed out of her first season, claiming it ”didn’t feel like the right fit“

Update, 1:30 p.m. Friday:

Despite reports swirling around the media that Jennifer Lopez would be replacing Ellen DeGeneres on "American Idol," and that Steven Tyler also was coming on board, an executive close to the situation has told TheWrap that absolutely no deals are yet in place for anyone.

There have been numerous discussions over with talent over the last two months, the executive said, but there has been no confirmation announced because the ink is not dry on any contracts.

Many of the names being reported are accurate, the executive said; others are not — and the only thing for sure right now is that DeGeneres and Simon Cowell would not be returning. By implication, this also would mean reports of Kara DioGuardi leaving the judges' table are premature.

The Lopez story first appeared on Deadline.com, who said a deal was closed earlier this week, orchestrated by Lopez's manager several months ago by Benny Medina.

People magazine added confirmation on Tuesday morning, citing an industry source. “It’s true,” says one insider. “She’s excited about it.”

Also reporting it was the Associated Press, who only said that Lopez was "close to signing a deal to join Fox TV's hit singing contest, a person familiar with the negotiations said late Thursday."

On Thursday night, TMZ added DioGuardi's supposed departure into the mix, saying the four-judge panel was taking time away from the contestants.

Spokespeople from Fox and Freemantle, the show's producer, refused to comment and gave no indication of when they could comment. Calls from TheWrap to Lopez's team were not immediately returned.

The big question now seems to be whether Fox will make any announcements before its Monday appearance at the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills.

If reports are true about Lopez, the move comes at a low point in her career. Her movies such as last year's "The Back Up Plan" have bombed at the box office and she lost her record contract with Sony.

Unlike DeGeneres, Lopez offers music chops. Moreover, like former Lakers cheerleader and "Idol" judge Paula Abdul, Lopez came to prominence as a dancer. She was a Fly Girl on the Fox series "In Living Color" in 1990.

Lopez has ties to the hit Fox competition series. She served as a mentor to the contestants during the show's 2007 season.


The search for Simon Cowell's replacement has consumed "American Idol" producers for months. Now the showrunners are left with another high-profile seat at the judge's table to fill.

Ellen DeGeneres is bailing as a judge of the hit talent competition after one season, Fox and the comedian announced on Thursday.

“A couple months ago, I let Fox and the 'American Idol' producers know that this didn’t feel like the right fit for me,” DeGeneres said. “I told them I wouldn’t leave them in a bind and that I would hold off on doing anything until they were able to figure out where they wanted to take the panel next.

Update: One blog reported that Jennifer Lopez would be taking DeGeneres's place, but the news – reported on Deadline – could not be independently verified. Lopez was mentioned as a possible replacement for departing judge Paula Abdul in 2009.

DeGeneres said it was a difficult decision, and blamed the heavy work scheduled, but also admitted: "While I love discovering, supporting and nurturing young talent, it was hard for me to judge people and sometimes hurt their feelings.”

Given the timing of the announcement — four days before Fox's presentation at the Television Critics Association press tour — and the wording "wouldn't leave them in a bind," it would not be a stretch to expect another bombshell soon.

Auditions for the next season of "Idol" began earlier this month in Nashville, New Orleans and Milwaukee. The show returns to the air in January.

DeGeneres' tenure at "Idol" was not regarded as a success. The novice judge was criticized for pulling too many punches and not having sufficient knowledge of the music business. There were also reports early in the season that she was clashing with Cowell. In fact, 'Idol's' ninth season with DeGeneres replacing Paula Abdul, was considered to be its weakest. That frustration was reflected in the show's ratings, which fell 9 percent. 

The hunt for an acerbic replacement for Cowell has drawn a flurry of rumors. Among the names bandied about recently: Elton John, Harry Connick Jr., Donald Trump, and Chris Isaak. It's uncertain if "Idol" producers will try to complement the Cowell replacement with another friendly face on the order of DeGeneres or opt for someone with music-industry credibility; former CBS records Tommy Mottola's name has been mentioned. 

Also unclear is whether Freemantle, the show's producer, will again try to put together a four-person panel. At least so far, Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi will return for the show's 10th season, along with host Ryan Seacrest.

In a sign that big changes may be afoot, rumors have been swirling that original producer Nigel Lythgoe would return to "Idol" as executive producer. "Idol"s' current executive producer Ken Warwick, however, told TheWrap exclusively that Lythgoe would only return to help with a reboot of the show in an advisory capacity.  

“We love Ellen and understand and support her decision to bow out of Idol,” Peter Rice, chairman of entertainment at Fox Networks Group, said in a statement. “We were fortunate to receive the humor, energy and love for talent that she brought to the show.”