by Ramin Setoodeh
American Idol without Paula Abdul is like Christmas without presents, summer without sunshine, Three's Company without Suzanne Somers. Simon Cowell might be the mastermind at the judges' table, but Paula is the show's No. 1 star. When she's at her best—the cleavage, the tears, the dancing—who cares about any of the contestants on stage? When she's at her worst—the slurring, the crazy talk, the bickering with Simon—she's even better.
But it looks like Paula's job might be on the line. In an interview Sunday with the Los Angeles Times, her manager David Sonenberg said: "Very sadly, it does not appear she's going to be back on Idol." Then Paula went on Twitter Sunday afternoon and told her fans: "If it weren't for you, this specific time and situation would be a whole lot worse." Then Sunday night, Paula went on a binge—and wrote personal messages to dozens and dozens of her Twitter fans (e.g., "I love you too" and "YOU make me smile" and "Happy Birthday Julianna," to a girl who seems to be spearheading some sort of Keep Paula campaign). This could all be an elaborate bargaining ploy to get Fox to offer Paula more money. But the new season of Idol starts filming in just a few days. Maybe Paula really is getting the pink slip.
In which case, whaaaaat?!?!?!? Is the show really dumping Paula Abdul and keeping Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi? How is that even possible? If American Idol loses Paula, the No. 1 show on TV will never be the same again. Here are 7 reasons why Idol needs it biggest cheerleader.
(1) Let's start with the cheerleader part. Paula might like to congratulate every contestant in her critiques—even Sanjaya—but she's also the only judge on the show who really seems to care. Even if she's not always coherent, she still somehow manages to remember tiny details about the contestants' songs and past performances. If you lose Paula, you lose Idol's heart and soul.
(2) Paula brings drama. Every time she's on the screen, you can't help but sit up in your chair. Is she going to slap Simon? Is she going to dis Kara? Is she going to fall over? It's what makes Idol must-see TV.
(3) Paula also makes Simon better. This is important, because Cowell seems incredibly bored with Idol—especially last season. Without Paula right next to him, he's going to have ... Kara DioGuardi.
(4) And that brings us to Kara. If Paula leaves, she's the only girl on the judge's panel. Kara is sweet, but she's also like Jenilee Harrison. Don't remember her? Harrison played Cindy Snow, Chrissy's long-lost cousin on Three's Company who suddenly appeared after star Suzanne Somers got the boot. Kara doesn't make a big impression either. And she gets the booby prize last season for cowriting "No Boundaries," the worst Idol finale song ever.
(5) Paula is a free publicity machine. Every time she gives an interview, she grabs headlines—whether it's because she accidentally reveals the identity of next week's guest mentor (which she does so often it can't really be an accident) or when she accidentally told Ladies' Home Journal last spring she had a 12-year addiction to painkillers (and then said she never said that). Fox doesn't even need to run ads for Idol. Paula gets the show all the attention it needs.
(6) The dancing. Is it bad? Is it good? It doesn't matter. It's better than anything you'll ever see on Dancing with the Stars.
(7) What will Paula do? Honestly, the unemployment rate is too high already. Does anybody actually expect Paula to find another job? Please American Idol, keep her. Save the show. It doesn't matter how much money she wants, because she's worth it. If you need to trim your budget—times are tough, after all!—get rid of Randy Jackson.