It was announced today that Paula Abdul is leaving American Idol after eight seasons. OMG! Apparently there are no salacious details; her contract was up for renewal and Fox and Abdul were unable to reach an agreement. Hmmmmm. Television succession is so fascinating! I posted earlier on the Leno/Conan succession saga which in my mind is an example of negotiating someone out too soon. This is an example of how the lack of ability/willingness to have honest conversations can result in awkward succession/performance situations.
Last season out of nowhere, Kara DioGuardi appeared as a fourth judge, seated smack next to Paula. There was never a clear rationale for the need for a fourth judge. It is now clear as day that Fox decided last year it wanted Abdul out when her contract came up this year. You would have to be under a rock to miss that signal. What did this move do to the team of judges during last season? To Abdul’s engagement level? Well the proof is in the pudding: Idol had its lowest ratings ever last season and several times the show ran over time due to the four judges taking up too much air time in order to get their “assessments” in.
Now Fox is saying it is on the look out for a fourth judge, with the caveat that they may “run out of time” and gosh golly gee, there may not be a fourth judge and Kara DioGuardi will stay on (her contract has been extended – but of course!).
Fox has achieved what they wanted. But sheesh, you have to try and be a tad more subtle.