American Idol’s musical judging chairs

Even with actual “American Idol” Season 9 programs now filling the void, speculation still seems to be at a fever pitch over what the judging table will look like in Season 10.

Your next American Idol? Afterthought – hey, it is early, and I still like General Larry Platt.

Ellen Degeneres in "Idol" mode. Photo by Michael Becker | Fox.

Ellen Degeneres in "Idol" mode. Photo by Michael Becker | Fox.

While this week’s big speculation has been about the possibility of satellite radio superstar Howard Stern taking over Simon Cowell’s seat when he leaves at the end of this season, “Idol’s” other love ’em or loathe ’em judge Kara DioGuardi made a good point about filling his role on the panel earlier this week.

“”If you are going to replace Simon, you have to have that background,” DioGuardi said in numerous press accounts. “Someone who knows about signing great artists and being a part of their career from the very beginning.”

While Simon’s directness makes him the show’s biggest lightning rod, DioGuardi highlights the major asset he brings to the table: the guy has been instrumental in creating television and recording enterprises and has spotted and developed talent such as Leona Lewis.

If that kind of cachet is what “Idol” producers go for, it may not be an established celebrity that takes over that chair, like we are seeing this week with Ellen DeGeneres’ debut as an “Idol” judge.

“Ellen makes it seem like there’s finally an adult on the panel,” a commenter on Joanne Brokaw’s Beliefnet blog said, in my favorite evaluation so far.

She came out of the gate with a few great quips Tuesday night telling a barefoot auditioner she should wear shoes because Hollywood is a filthy town and rejected competitor Skii Bo Ski that there’s a thin line between sexy and scary. So it seems she’ll give up some laughs, but not for histrionic outbursts like her predecessor Paula Abdul. When she wasn’t showing her comic chops, Ellen seemed very serious in her first two episodes, popping on the reading glasses during deliberations and cutting through competitors with almost Simon-esque precision. She also was showcased as a benevolent judge, getting to tell several entire groups they were through to the next rounds.

Of course, these are still highly edited episodes. When we get to live rounds, we’ll start to get a clearer picture of what kind of judge Ellen is and how she fits on the panel. It’ll probably be a while longer before we know who actually replaces Simon.

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