The Pros and Cons Of Renegotiating with Paula Abdul
As talk intensifies that Paula Abdul's Idol-ditching tweet was just a negotiation ploy (certainly, we all expect second-level career management skills from the woman who saw what Being Bobby Brown did for Whitney Houston and then asked Bravo executives "Will you make one of those for me?"), it's time to ask the tough question: Is she worth it? We've laid down the pros and cons of reopening talks with Paula.
· Like it or not, Abdul alone fulfills an emotional component of the show -- none of the other judges are able to establish a real rapport with the contestants besides her. DioGuardi had plenty of chances this past season to find even a single Idol to connect with, but she only struck up a vibe when she intensely disliked who she was dealing with.
· Abdul is by far the most buzz-generating personality on the show. Even Cowell, Idol's most essential presence, has long ago run out of new things to say. Abdul can be counted on to rarely deliver the same line twice, mostly because her sentences tend to crash unpredictably on the shoals of verbal incoherence. Without her on the panel, there's no judge left to provide us with buzzworthy, YouTube-able moments the next day.
· The four-judge format was a failure, as Idol production managers completely lost the plot of how to keep such an unwieldy show running on time. Returning to three judges will make things a hell of a lot easier.
· Abdul is notoriously difficult to work with; it's no surprise that Idol staffers celebrated the news that she wouldn't be coming back. She would regularly show up late or (in many early audition rounds) not at all. Even on live show nights, Abdul was often the very last person to make it to her seat, and often, shows would start while she was still making her way to the judges' table.
· At this point, it's frankly buzzier for Fox to commit to keeping Paula off the show, as her absence gives its newly rejiggered panel a jolt of freshness that even DioGuardi's arrival couldn't manage. Were Paula to be wooed back, things would look exactly the same as they did last season, but without her, there's bound to be a certain curiosity about how the judges' table recalibrates.
· If the network really wants to keep Abdul around, they could strike up a new deal to add her to So You Think You Can Dance (even on a recurring basis). Abdul herself said yesterday, "It's a wonderful show. I don't think that's going to happen," but it could provide a shot in the arm for both her and Dance (especially as Fox prepares to move it out of its summer slot).
As a blogger, I think there's plenty to be gained from keeping the reliably nutty Abdul, but if I think like a Fox exec, it makes more sense to cut her loose (and the network's behavior toward her -- especially by bringing on DioGuardi during Abdul's last signed year -- indicates that they've been prepping for this arrangement for a while). Paula, we'll miss you, but at this point, your best career option is to carefully pick a celebrity-death-free week to sell an exclusive to People magazine.