Ellen DeGeneres is dancing her way into the fourth judge’s seat on “American Idol.”
Fox announced Wednesday the talk show host and comedian, who admittedly has no formal music experience, just a passion for tunes, will join Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi for the ninth season. The announcement all but seals the departure of Paula Abdul, the original third judge who announced she was quitting amid a contract dispute in July.
Wednesday’s announcement came as a shock to many of the singing competition’s fans, who did not expect the Emmy-winning talk show host to fill Abdul’s spot. DeGeneres told her talk show audience in an episode scheduled to air Thursday that she had been “dying to tell everyone” and would not abandon her chatfest. Instead, she will have “a day job and a night job.”
“The times we’re living in,” she quipped, “we’re all doing that.”
Abdul had been replaced by a succession of guest judges across the country as “Idol” started next season’s auditions, which will air in January. Among them: Victoria Beckham, Mary J. Blige, Joe Jonas, Neil Patrick Harris, Katy Perry and Shania Twain — but not the 51-year-old DeGeneres, who will join the ninth season following the show’s tryout rounds.
“Hopefully, I’m the people’s point of view because I’m just like you,” DeGeneres said on her talk show. “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.”
It won’t be DeGeneres’ first time in a reality TV judge’s seat — or on “Idol.” She served as a guest judge earlier this summer on “So You Think You Can Dance,” critiquing the dancing competition’s top eight finalists. In 2007, she was the co-host of “Idol Gives Back,” the singing contest’s charity event. She returned the next year in a pre-taped segment.
DeGeneres’ has enjoyed a successful reign as the host of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” for the past six years, although her four-year streak as the talk show host Daytime Emmy winner ended this year when Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Sherri Shepherd and Barbara Walters from ABC’s “The View” were awarded the prize for the first time.
“Beyond her incredible sense of humor and love of music, she brings with her an immense warmth and compassion that is almost palpable,” said “Idol” executive producer and FremantleMedia North America CEO Cecile Frot-Coutaz in a statement. “She is one of America’s foremost entertainers, and we cannot wait to have her join our team.”
With the four judges’ seats now filled, it’s highly unlikely Abdul will return to her post on “Idol.” Known for her sugary sweet but often obscure evaluations, Abdul had served as judge alongside Cowell and Jackson since the show’s debut in 2002. Producers attempted to shake up the franchise last season by adding songwriter DioGuardi as a fourth judge.
Since departing “Idol,” Abdul has gone diva, filming a cameo for Lifetime’s “Drop Dead Diva” as a gavel-banging, glammed-up version of herself and signing on to host the live “VH1 Divas” concert Sept. 17. Abdul has yet to announce a steady job to replace her role on the Fox singing contest, but she told TV Guide last week she’d like to host a talk show.