Last night, American Idol judge Paula Abdul said on Twitter that she would not be returning to the show: "With sadness in my heart, I’ve decided not to return to #IDOL. I’ll miss nurturing all the new talent, but most of all being a part of a show that I helped from day1become an international phenomenon."

Immediately, some began to wonder whether this was just a maneuever to get Fox to work with her on her contract or something along those lines, but this morning, the network said in a statement that Abdul was "an important part of the 'American Idol' family over the last eight seasons and we are saddened that she has decided not to return to the show."

This is all coming a day after Fox announced that Kara DioGuardi would be returning as a judge, even though her addition to the show last season had been widely panned (including by me).
So is this a good move for the network? From the start of the show, Abdul became an easy punchline, with her sometimes bizarre sweeping statements about people's hearts or voices and sometimes-strange on-camera behavior.
But this season, with DioGuardi in the mix, Abdul's strengths became more clear. As she stated on Twitter, her goal was to nurture new talent, and her kind approach to the contestants was novel in comparison with the other judges, especially DioGuardi and Simon Cowell. She also seemed more focused this season (perhaps feeling threatened by DioGuardi's presence?) and backed up a lot of her critiques with specific comments about the contestants' vocal abilities or musical arrangements.
Two years ago, I wouldn't have believed I would be saying this, but I think Paula Abdul's departure from Idol is a huge mistake. This year, she stepped up as a more competent judge and really showed what she has brought to the show for its whole run. With her gone, judges' panel is going to turn into a festival of snark, and that's not really constructive -- for the singers or the audience.
I'm hoping this is just posturing over the contract negotiations, but I guess we'll see soon enough, since auditions for next season, which starts in January, are under way. (David Zurawik thinks it could go down that way, too.)
What do you think about this news?
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