Dec.21-27: 'Idol' Rumors And Idle Threats
This Christmas week, American Idol fans has visions of jumping sharks, not sugarplums, dancing in their heads as Simon Cowell 's own brother Tony perpetuated rumors that season 9 will be Simon's last stint on the popular TV talent show. In an installment of Tony's podcast "The Cowell Factor" that has since been mysteriously pulled off the server, Simon's sibling blurted out: "A press statement is being prepared which will confirm what everybody expected: Simon will leave Idol at the end of 2010 to concentrate on bringing the American version of [his British talent show] X Factor to U.S. TV in 2011."
While the news earlier this year of fellow judge Paula Abdul 's resignation from AmIdol certainly generated shockwaves in the music/TV community, that commotion quickly subsided once it was announced that the much-loved Ellen DeGeneres had been hired to take Paula's place. But the immediate reaction among Idol watchers this week was that NO ONE could ever replace Simon Cowell, whose "surly British judge" persona set the template for reality TV during this decade (see: Nigel Lythgoe , Piers Morgan , Gordon Ramsey , Len Goodman , et al) and has always been a crucial component of American Idol 's appeal. Surely the show could not survive the departure of the judge everyone loves to hate and hates to love. That's why Simon is paid the big bucks ($35 million a year), right?
Well, as of this writing, no one from Fox or 19 Entertainment has come forward to directly and officially address these resignation rumors. But The Hollywood Reporter reported this week that Fox is close to a deal to renew Idol for three more seasons (after its contract ends in 2011), with or without Simon's involvement. (Perhaps this is why Fox, according to the Hollywood Reporter , is contemplating having Simon still fill a smaller role on Idol season 10, like weighing in during Hollywood Week, in order to keep people tuning in.) So, does this mean Paula will get her old job back? Will Simon be replaced by Ben Folds , who immensely impressed as a judge on this month's The Sing-Off ? We shall see. But American Idol will never be the same sans Simon. We all might as well set our DVRs for The X Factor U.S. now, if this rumor of his departure is true.
In other Simon Cowell news, his unbroken run of music business domination was finally broken this week--by a 17-year-old Rage Against The Machine song, of all things. See, the "Christmas number one"--the song that tops the charts at the end of the calendar year--is a big deal in Britain, and for the last few years it's been all but guaranteed that the honor will go to the most recent X Factor winner's debut single. But this year, 2009 X Factor champion Joe McElderry (who is signed to Simon's record label, SyCo) had to settle for spot number two, thanks to a grassroots Facebook campaign, "Rage Against The X Factor."
It all started with married RATM fans Jon and Tracy Morter 's Facebook-based protest, which eventually gained the support of big-name rockers like the Foo Fighters ' Dave Grohl , Paul McCartney , and Rage's own Tom Morello . The goal of the campaign was to make RATM's 1992 political anthem "Killing In The Name" Britain's Christmas number one, instead of the expected X Factor single. And, incredibly, this campaign WORKED: "Killing In The Name" topped the U.K. singles chart this week with 500,000 copies sold, compared to number two entry Joe McElderry's sales of 450,000. For the first time in five years, an X Factor champion did not snag Britain's coveted Christmas number one spot.
A shocked Jon Morter told British music magazine NME : "It just goes to show if you use social networking in the right way, you can do it." Rumors circulated in the U.K. press that Simon Cowell was so impressed with this campaign that he offered Jon and Tracy Morter marketing jobs at SyCo, but the Morters turned him down. Hey...maybe one of them can take Simon's job on American Idol instead!
In other Idol -related news, season 4 winner Carrie Underwood got engaged to pro hockey player Mike Fisher , her boyfriend of one year and the man she declared in her recent Play On album liner notes to be "the most amazing addition to my life." And season 3 Idol star Jennifer Hudson , who just gave birth to her first child four months ago (the father is fellow reality star David "Punk" Otunga , of I Love New York fame), was rumored to already be pregnant again--but a J.Hud rep quickly squashed that gossip, telling Access Hollywood : "Contrary to what has been falsely reported, Jennifer Hudson is not pregnant. Jennifer leaves in April for South Africa where she will portray Winnie Mandela in the feature film Winnie . It is a commitment she is excited about and takes very seriously. Jennifer is currently in the studio recording her second album and this is the only delivery she is looking forward to in 2010."