• The Hollywood Reporter on LinkedIn
  • Follow THR on Pinterest

Ellen DeGeneres is leaving 'American Idol'

A major tectonic shift on "American Idol" Thursday as Fox announced Ellen DeGeneres is leaving the show after one season, becoming the second judge to depart the show in the last few months, followed by reports that actress-singer Jennifer Lopez will take her place.

DeGeneres said she was stepping down due to her busy schedule with her syndicated daytime talk show, as well feeling burdened by the emotional toll of criticizing young contestants.

"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. It was a difficult decision to make, but my work schedule became more than I bargained for. I also realized this season that while I love discovering, supporting and nurturing young talent, it was hard for me to judge people and sometimes hurt their feelings."

Lopez’s name has been in the mix for awhile. Producers considered her one of the best mentors to ever appear on the show and Lopez is said to be huge "Idol" fan. Picking Lopez would give "Idol" a credible music industry figure to replace DeGeneres, who was criticized for her lack of technical musical critiquing skills. In a way, she’s more of a replacement for Paula Abdul, whose absence was severely felt by fans, than for DeGeneres.

As first reported by THR, Fox has been looking to significantly shake-up the "Idol" format, including potentially ditching current judges and bringing back producer Nigel Lythgoe . The show is as lowering its audition age to 16 and tweaking its scheduling format for next season, shortening the results show. 


DeGeneres' tenure on as an "Idol" judge was criticized for relying too heavily on pre-scripted-sounding quips rather than inspired analysis of contestant performances. Behind the scenes, DeGeneres reportedly had difficulty getting along with departing top judge Simon Cowell.

In an exclusive statement to THR, Cowell praised DeGeneres’ performance on the show.

"As I got to know Ellen, I grew to really, really like her," he said. "I have huge respect for her because she's always been in control of her own destiny."

The exit reflects Fox's latest move in its plan to reboot the reality hit for its 10th season. Fox released a flurry of statements saying the move was DeGeneres' decision, but as recent as last week the performer's reps told THR she was still willing to fulfill her multi-year contract with the show.

Sophomore judge Kara DioGuardi is also said to be potentially exiting the show.

Randy Jackson, who has another year on his contract, is considered likely to stay. 

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

"It was a joy to work with Ellen," added Mike Darnell, president of alternative entertainment, Fox. "She brought an incredible spirit to 'Idol' and was a great new addition to the team. While we’re saddened by her decision, we are very appreciative that she gave us ample notice so that we could work through it together."