Infamously caustic critic Simon Cowell announced today that he'll be leaving his popular Fox talent show "American Idol" atÂ the end of the season, according to CNN.com. The entertainment mogul is expanding his empire to include a U.S. version of the Brit hit "The X Factor", coming to Fox in 2011.
Cowell spoke about the move at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, California,Â "[I] didn't think it was right to do two shows in America at the same time, so [I] decided to leave one and start another," he said. His contract with "American Idol" is up in May. "Idol" is embarking on its ninth season tomororow evening.
Rumors had been circulating for some time regarding Cowell leaving the show. Cowell's brother Tony had mentioned the potential move during a podcast of his radio show in December.
Fellow panelist Randy Jackson has said that he doesn't want the change to overshadow this season, "It is pretty much a distraction. I think people get a little side-tracked with that...Let's also focus on what we are judging and what the actual heartbeat of the show really is, and it is about finding that next superstar talent."
Reuters reported that Jackson, one of the three original panelists and a Grammy award winning musician, has previously lamented this season's absence of the perky former pop star and acclaimed choreographer Paula Abdul. "She is one of our best friends. I miss that. We look down the table sometimes and think, 'Where's Paula?'," said Jackson, "It's going to take a little getting used to. We're really sad about that."
Daytime talk show titan Ellen DeGeneres will be filling that seat once auditions are complete: bringing speculation that, like Abdul, she will soften the often harsh criticisms of Simon Cowell. There is talk that Cowell may be bringing Paula Abdul to his U.S. incarnation of "The X Factor" to continue their 'good cop, bad cop' ruse.
Season eight of "American Idol" also juggled judges. The addition of songwriter Kara Dioguardi to the table was met with mixed reviews by many fans before the season premiere last year. The change was quickly forgotten when top talents such as the heartbreaking Danny Gokey, spunky Allison Iraheta and standout second place winner Adam Lambert became household names. However the shakeup may have brought some of the lowest American Idol ratings since 2004, down 10% from the 2008 premiere, an L.A. Times article calculated.
CNN's suggestions for possible replacements include David Hasslehoff, who has judged on "America's Got Talent", Idol host Ryan Seacrest, "The Apprentice" frontman Donald Trump,Â pop psychologist Dr. Phil, or Rosie O'Donnell, who ruled the roost on The View.
An Associated Press clip calls Cowell's decision to leave a "huge threat to the show."