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Image: Chris Isaak
Lucas Jackson  /  Reuters
Musician Chris Isaak is rumored to be a front-runner to replace Simon Cowell on "American Idol."
updated 7/29/2010 11:31:30 AM ET 2010-07-29T15:31:30

The race to find Simon Cowell’s replacement on "American Idol" is heating up, with The Hollywood Reporter reporting Chris Isaak as the front-runner .

But here’s the trouble with casting Isaak: I had to Google him.

Could this be an age thing? Absolutely. Perhaps the mere mention of his name sets the 40-somethings swooning. But last I checked, networks weren't courting the 40-plus set. "Idol" may be a show for all ages, but it's the 18- to 34-year-old demo that Fox — and paying advertisers — is after.

    1. The top-earning 'Idols'
    2. TV's biggest moneymakers
    3. World's top-earning musicians
    4. Country music's 10 top-earning stars
    5. How 17 stars got their big breaks

None of this is to say Isaak lacks the talent, the credibility or the chemistry with the rest of the judges. In fact, he has a resume that absolutely should impress "Idol’s" producers.

What recent — and often criticized — addition Ellen DeGeneres lacks in music experience, he does not. He’s penned a slew of popular songs, including late 1980’s hit "Wicked Games." And he’s proved telegenic too, appearing on several TV shows from "Smallville" and "Cold Case" to his own Showtime series from 2001 to 2004, "The Chris Isaak Show."

But here’s the question: Does "American Idol," a show that shed another 9 percent of its audience along with its signature judge this past season, really want someone I had to look up?

Sure, "Idol" viewers had to do some Internet digging on Cowell too when the show premiered in 2002. In fact, everyone other than former judge Paula Abdul probably required a search or two. Ryan Seacrest, who? But that was then.

The show is no longer summer-time filler with low expectations. With viewers fleeing and Cowell out, a new entry at the judges’ table doesn’t have time to prove he’s worth watching — much less loving. (Harry Connick Jr. is allegedly being considered for the gig as well.)

Instead, "Idol" is a ratings juggernaut that has catapulted the News Corp-owned network to No. 1 among younger viewers for six consecutive seasons. It has found a way to launch shows, stars and entertainment empires, all particularly impressive feats given the fragile state of the broadcast network business. And now, at the most vulnerable point in the show’s eight year history, it needs a music powerhouse that its younger viewers — or at least I — don’t have to Google.

© 2012 Forbes.com


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