A Network-by-Network Plan For Finding Paula Abdul's Next Gig

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The signs of the Apocalypse were all around us this morning: Rainbows turning black as ash, songbirds suddenly suffocating and falling dead from their perches mid-warble, and, most chillingly, Paula Abdul no longer sitting behind a conspicuously placed Coca-Cola cup and mumbling incomprehensible, affirming feedback to pitch-impaired contestants reinterpreting Fall Out Boy covers of Police standards. Even though it's hard to see any reasons to go on living in the face of these end times, we all must spit out the sweet teat of self-annihilation long enough to realize one crucial fact: Paula will be just fine without American Idol. No, really, she will! Soon, the networks will be lining up to shower her in millions of dollars while gently cooing in her ear, "You were the real star of that two-bit karaoke competition, and together we're going to make the world forget about that mean Limey what's-his-name and the other what's-his-name who stands on stage and won't touch the girls."

And what will these suitors offer TV's biggest free agent? Movieline takes a network-by-network look at some of the projects Paula will have to choose from.

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NBC:

Obvious play: America's Got Paula!

Each summer, after the American Idol juggernaut is through reducing all primetime competition to smoldering, counterprogramming rubble, NBC rolls out its own showcase for the delusional, large-heartedly allowing those on furlough from inpatient psychiatric facilities to impress America with any genre of talent their caregivers have encouraged them to pursue in the course of their therapy. With nary an indispensable personality on its judging tribunal of Piers Morgan, Sharon Osbourne, and David Hasselhoff, removing the most contractually undesirable of the three placeholders and installing a key cog in the absurdly high-rated Idol machine would be a move guaranteed to boost the show's mediocre ratings. And with just a couple of weeks of intensive training in how to press the button that lights up Talent's big red X's of rejection (a small modification to the apparatus where each-button press dispenses a prescription painkiller should do the trick), Abdul will be ready to carry the franchise for years to come.

Out-of-the-box play: Paula Abdul's Mercy

It seems that virtually every network is dipping its toe into the sassy-nurse-who's-actually-running-the-hospital waters, the new NBC regime might want to put its own stamp on a project developed under self-immolating rock star Ben Silverman with some explosive stunt-casting. Abdul would be a perfect fit to take Mercy in a darker, Nurse Jackie-esque direction, as a brilliant, tortured RN prone to making illicit withdrawals from the pharmacy. (Yes, indeed, we're going back to the pills, because how can we possibly ignore a personal brand Abdul's spent so many years cultivating?)

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ABC

Obvious play: Dancing With Paula Abdul's Stars

As with NBC and America's Got Talent, ABC's got a natural landing spot for Abdul in Dancing with the Stars. And as with Talent, they'd have to oust one of their three arbiters to make room for Paula to avoid the disastrous four-judge alignment that ultimately made Paula seem expendable to her Idol overlords. Lone female judge Carrie Ann Inaba's gig would seem to be imperiled by Abdul's unexpected availability, unless she quickly develops some character quirks (read: entertaining chemical dependency or some kind of sudden-onset multiple-personality disorder) during hiatus. Watch the tabloids for Inaba's desperate progress in these areas.

Out-of-the-box play: Jimmy Kimmel Live with Paula Abdul

Abdul would make the perfect sidekick foil for Kimmel, giving the network some fresh ammunition in the late-night wars that suddenly look more winnable in Jay Leno's absence. Perched at the end of Kimmel's couch, Paula could add a delightfully unpredictable element to each interview, with the delicious tension of knowing a guest might at any moment be accosted by a warm hug or have a carefully scripted anecdote interrupted by one of Abdul's patented, slurred soliloquies about wondrous melon-seeking creatures only she can see.

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Fox

Obvious play: So You Think You Can Paula?

The superstar choreographer would be a no-brainer substitution for mildly unhinged, Abdul-lite judge Mary Murphy, whom Fox, despite this Idol impasse, would not hesitate to toss from its speeding Hot Tamale Train should Paula demonstrate even a whiff of interest. With Abdul conducting this tamale-fueled express line (which she'd describe in detail as she punched each dancer's ticket, from the En Fuego Enchilada Engine to the Caliente Chimichanga Caboose), the upgraded SYTYCD could quickly develop into another Nielsen powerhouse.

Out-of-the-box play: The Paula Abdul Show

Should the network decide that it just can't afford to lose a high-rated personality it helped create to a competitor, it could hand over its entire 10 p.m. time slot to their proven primetime commodity, hoping that the massive savings in drama series production costs will be offset by a demographically desirable audience of Abdul fans. The nightly show's concept isn't important; slap a desk and a couch on a soundstage, invite over some guests, and allow the magic to happen naturally. As long as there's an assistant crouched under that desk with a cattle prod to make sure the host stays conscious long enough to keep the loosey-goosey, Paula-style fun happening, it's a surefire hit.

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CBS

While there's no obvious talent-show fit for Abdul, virtually all of CBS's primetime schedule could benefit from an injection of Abdul's magic. (And the millions of loyal fans she could potentially bring along with her.) The versatile talent could easily anchor a new CSI franchise (CSI: Beverly Hills has a nice ring to it), serve as a fresh lust object the Big Bang Theory nerds could clumsily woo with quadratic-equation jokes, or help interpret the spectral language of The Ghost Whisperer's most troubled souls. Less daringly, she could always be air-dropped into Survivor base camp alongside Jeff Probst or locked into an Ikea-decorated nightmare bunker with the Big Brother house guests, initiating TV-friendly conflict by hoarding all their peanut butter or storming into bedrooms to interrupt the near-constant acts of night-vision-monitored sexual congress.

The CW

Paula Abdul is a star, OK? She will not go slumming on some teenybooper-obsessed netlet. Unless Tyra personally calls her up, takes her out for a totally fun day of shopping, and pitches her a Top Model spinoff about, like, plus-size models or paraplegic fashion designers or whatever. Then Paula will talk.



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