'Idol'-pocalypse update: Fox's dream-on panel, more on Ellen exit
If all goes according to Fox's current plan, the "American Idol" judges panel will include newcomers actress-singer Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler, along with familiar face Randy Jackson.
If everything goes according to Fox's best-case dream scenario, "Idol" will land a whale -- an Elton John or similarly huge name, either as a fourth judge or in place of one of the other three names.
And the judges panel isn't going to be the end of this story, with sources indicating further tweaks are coming to other aspects of the show over the coming weeks.
One goal behind assembling the new panel is to find a mix that would be less "callous and cynical" than during Cowell's tenure -- not less critical of contestants, necessarily, but a warmer and more positive atmosphere among the judges panel, both on and off camera, a vibe more reminiscent of the early years of the show.
Fox isn't confirming or denying any media reports about "Idol" at this point. The network has gone into bunker-mode to press inquires about "Idol," partly because Fox hopes to make a splash Monday at its TCA presentation, partly because deals are still being worked out and partly because things are frantic behind the scenes.
"It's a mess," said one source. "There's a million cooks in the kitchen, it's truly complete chaos."
Fox hopes to have at least one of the new judges -- all of them, preferably -- on stage Monday for press tour (Tyler, at least, is in town, having just checked into a hotel in Hollywood last night).
The network is also expected to announce "So You Think You Can Dance" judge/producer Nigel Lythgoe returning as an executive producer to the show.
Of the new names, Lopez is closest to a done deal and even skeptical industry insiders agree she's a solid choice for the show.
Sources are more skeptical about Tyler, saying his rocker image is not a great fit for the "Idol" brand and that's not the most articulate speaker.
In the meantime, there more details about the departure of Ellen DeGeneres who, it seems, really did have reservations about staying on the show.
"They begged her to stick around," said one person with knowledge of exit. "They said, `We're re-tooling the show around you, we'll hire [her friend] Elton. We'll get judges you want.' She said, 'All right, I'll roll with you guys.' She was trying to be a good soldier and not bail out. They begged her not to bail up until two or three days ago."
Though Elton John's reps have vehemently denied he has any interest in being on "Idol," there have remained lingering attempts to get him on the show -- either as a fourth judge, or instead of one of the other three listed above, since some of the "Idol" producing factions are dead set on going back to having only three judges.
"They think they can get Elton John … [he] always seems to need money."
The situation abruptly shifted in the 24 hours leading up to Fox announcing DeGeneres' exit Thursday afternoon.
"She was really not psyched about going back," the source added. "There was eight weeks of f--king around. But by the standards of Hollywood f--king around, it's not that bad. It's not like she missed out on anything."
UPDATE: Fox sources say there will be no "Idol" announcement on Monday. "No deals are signed." Keep in mind, last year Cowell signed his "X Factor" deal minutes before taking the TCA stage.
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