Why Ellen DeGeneres Could Top Paula Abdul as the New Judge on 'American Idol'

By Ramin Setoodeh

Let's say you're a powerful executive looking to hire somebody for a job on the No. 1 show on TV. As you comb through the applicants (lots of pop stars, including a certain former Spice Girl with a posh haircut who shall remain anonymous), one application really stands out. This performer began her career as a stand-up comedian. She has hosted the Oscars, the Emmys, the Grammys, and her own talk show, which has been slowly nipping at Oprah's numbers. She played the first openly lesbian sitcom star on TV, and she broke down barriers for gay rights without clubbing people over the head with it. And, like the woman she is replacing, Paula, she goes by only one name: Ellen.

Yeah, that's right. Ellen DeGeneres has been announced as the new judge of American Idol, and it could very well be one of the most brilliant casting decisions on TV. Until last night, most Idol fans (myself included) were still furious at Paula Abdul's premature dismissal from the show. They were demanding boycotts and write-ins, and they were ready to hate her replacement, whoever she may be. Now the Idol world has been turned upside down. Nobody can hate Ellen. She's the most lovable woman on TV, and she might even make American Idol a slightly better show. Here's why:

1. Ellen will have all of Paula's strengths. In other words, she will play the role of the nice, trustworthy friend on the Idol panel. The audience and contestants will all like her, and she will be a good mentor for them (watch Ellen with kids on her talk show; the woman radiates a Paula-like warmth).

2. But she won't have any of Paula's weaknesses. What weaknesses might those be? You know, not showing up to work on time, slurring her words, spinning in her chair, and looking like she's about to fall asleep when the contestants are performing.

3. Ellen might not have any musical experience, but that doesn't really matter. The panel already has Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, and Kara DioGuardi (although I'm still trying to figure out what Kara's area of expertise is). They need Ellen for something much bigger than that ...

4. Enthusiasm. Ellen loves Idol like a true fan, because she is a true fan. She regularly talks about Idol on her talk show, and she even co-hosted the Idol Gives Back charity event a few years ago. That energy and love will pump some much-needed fuel into the Idol machine as it enters its ninth season.

5. American Idol could use a sense of humor. Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell's quips to each other were never really that funny, and they've only grown stale over the years. Ellen is the queen of zingers.

6. And, finally, aren't you excited to see Ellen dance at the judge's table? She might not be a trained choreographer, but her choreography is better than Paula's, as you can see by this recent So You Think You Can Dance video. (See the video here: http://perezhilton.com/2009-09-08-ellen-really-loves-to-dance.)

Of course, Idol may stumble without its most unpredictable star. But if Paula really can't come back (for reasons that still seem murky, and what exactly is she going to do instead?), Ellen isn't a bad alternative. And we now have four full months to accept Paula's departure and move on before the new-season premiere in January. See how smart the Idol people are?