Is This the End of 'American Idol'?

The King of Mean and the Queen of Nice: Simon and Ellen. Michael Becker / AP

Ding dong, the witch is dead! Which old witch? The Idol witch, of course.

After 10 long years of big-footing its way through pop culture, it looks like American Idol has sung its last note as the country's No. 1 TV show, music ("music"?) source, Broadway feeder school, and all-around entertainment distraction. With the departure of judges Ellen DeGeneres and (reportedly) Kara DioGuardi, there is no way that Idol will continue as the well-oiled machine that it was in the hallowed days of Randy-Paula-Simon. And now I think we should all join in a chorus of "A Moment Like This."

However, I do not come to bury Idol but to praise it. The fact is, we all know the show was headed south this year, now that both of the people who made the show what it is are gone. Without the good cop/bad cop routine of Paula and Simon, Idol would never have become what it is: a national soap opera wrapped around a talent contest/Don Rickles insulting standup routine. The show had already slipped this year without Paula, having been almost overtaken by the show's own sequined stepchild, Dancing With the Stars. Whoever the producers find to fill all the empty chairs, they'll never match the sweet-and-sour combination that was Paula and Simon. And if it's true that the new kids on the block are named Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler—forget it. Bland won't work. Ms. DeGeneres is proof of that.

What's really amazing about this is that the Idol producers didn't screw it up sooner. In our world of insta-celebs and insta-has-beens (wherefore art thou, Susan Boyle?) nothing lasts a decade unless it's got Dick Wolf behind it (and even he couldn't keep his beloved Law & Order going anymore). Idol changed America, for better and for worse, and you can't say that about many things in pop culture these days. Does anyone think that Jersey Shore will make it past, well, the summer? So let's be grateful for a show that, whatever its faults, managed to pull the country into the same TV room for a hour or two (or 46) a week, rooting for singers of every size, shape, color, sexual orientation, and mental condition. It was nice knowing you—sort of.