Ellen DeGeneres to Replace Paula Abdul as ‘American Idol’ Judge

Talk show host and actress Ellen DeGeneres has joined American Idol as a fourth judge replacing Paula Abdul, who announced this summer via Twitter that she would not return for the series’ ninth season.

DeGeneres will sit alongside Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi throughout the competition when the new season kicks off in January, according to an announcement Fox issued late afternoon Sept. 9.

She will join the judges’ panel after the auditions, which are underway in cities across the U.S. Among the guest judges slated to fill in during the auditions: Victoria Beckham, Mary J. Blige, Kristin Chenoweth, Joe Jonas, Neil Patrick Harris, Avril Lavigne, Katy Perry and Shania Twain.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show, DeGeneres’ syndicated daily talk show with Warner Bros., enters its seventh season this fall and is cleared on stations through the 2010-11 season. DeGeneres' talent deal with Warner Bros. for the talk show extends through the 2013-14 season, according to sources. Since she will not be traveling for the auditions, her new role would not appear to present a problem with production on the talk show at the moment. And, of course, participating in more than one TV show at a time is far from unprecedented. Idol host Ryan Seacrest does a daily radio show and E! News, among other projects, while Idol is in season. Kelly Ripa also has starred in a daytime soap and then a primetime comedy while doing Live With Regis & Kelly.

Warner Bros. released a statement that the talk host is scheduled to make on-the-air on Ellen Sept. 10 saying, “I’m not leaving here. Don’t worry about that.  I’m going to have a day job and a night job. The times we’re living… in we’re all doing that.”  

“We’ve been dealing with this for the last couple of weeks and I’ve been dying to tell everyone. It’s just been so hard to keep it a secret and we just finally got the ok and I’m so excited,” DeGeneres’ statement says. “I don’t know how it happened myself but I have not missed one episode of that show. I’ve watched every single thing. I love everything about it and I love music, as you know. Hopefully I’m the people’s point of view because I’m just like you. I sit at home and I watch it and I don’t have that technical…I’m not looking at it in a critical way from the producer’s mind.  I’m looking at it as a person who is going to buy the music and is going to relate to that person. So I’m hopefully going to be that voice of what we’re all doing at home.”

In the Fox statement, DeGeneres says: “I’ve watched since the beginning, and I’ve always been a huge fan. So getting this job is a dream come true, and think of all the money I’ll save from not having to text in my vote.”

Fox executives last month said at the TCA press tour that they would seek a replacement for Abdul who has their own persona, chemistry with the other judges and with Seacrest and who could infuse the top-rated series with some new, positive energy.

“Ellen has been a fan of the show for many years, and her love of music and understanding of the American public will bring a unique human touch to our judging panel,” says creator and executive producer Simon Fuller in the Sept. 9 announcement.

“Beyond her incredible sense of humor and love of music, she brings with her an immense warmth and compassion that is almost palpable,” executive producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz adds in the statement. “She is one of America’s foremost entertainers, and we cannot wait to have her join our team.”

Mike Darnell, President of Alternative Entertainment for Fox, adds: “She is truly one of America’s funniest people and a fantastic performer who understands what it’s like to stand up in front of audiences and entertain them every day. We feel that her vast entertainment experience – combined with her quick wit and passion for music – will add a fresh new energy to the show.”

Prior to the launch of her talk show, DeGeneres had many roles as a comedienne, actress and author. She voiced the character Dory in animated feature film Finding Nemo and at the same time, did a 35-city stand-up comedy tour, entitled the Here and Now tour. Her stop at the Beacon Theater in New York was turned into an HBO special. Her second book The Funny Thing Is…. hit the New York Times’ Bestseller list upon its release.

DeGeneres began her acting career in television on the Fox sitcom Open House. She moved on to ABC’s Laurie Hill, prior to being offered a part on These Friends of Mine by ABC. After the first season, the show was renamed Ellen and ran from 1994 to 1998. In 1997, DeGeneres received the Peabody Award and an Emmy for writing the “Puppy Episode” when her character came out as a gay woman. She also had a short-lived CBS sitcom The Ellen Show that aired during the 2001-02 TV season.

American Idol is created and executive-produced by Fuller, founder of 19 Entertainment; and executive-produced by Frot-Coutaz, CEO, FremantleMedia North America, Inc. and Ken Warwick, Executive Producer, FremantleMedia North America, Inc.