Tuned In

Paula Abdul Tweets Idol Goodbye

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So much for Twitter as a negotiating tactic. Paula Abdul had been carrying out her negotiations to return to American Idol as a judge semi-publicly through her Twitter feed, and last night, she used the service to tell us straight up: She’s leaving the show. Her statement, in the poetic tweet form in which it was conveyed:

With sadness in my heart, I’ve decided not to return to #IDOL. I’ll miss nurturing all the new talent, but most of all..Cont’d…

I’ll miss nurturing all the new talent,but most of all being a part of a show that I helped from day1become an international phenomenon.

What I want to say most, is how much I appreciate the undying support and enormous love that you have showered upon me

It truly has been breathtaking, especially over the past month

I do without any doubt have the BEST fans in the entire world and I love you all

Fox soon confirmed the parting of ways. Host Ryan Seacrest in turn tweeted “I can’t imagine the panel without Paula,” and on that we agree. From all reports, it looks like things broke down over money. In The Hollywood Reporter’s account, Abdul was asking for $20 million and turned down a 30% raise.

This just seems like a mistake all around. Abdul and her entertaining volatility were tremendously valuable—to Idol. It’s hard to imagine her translating that worth to another reality show or other platform—see her ill-fated reality show—because her importance was so tied to the context of Idol, the sniping with Simon and the particular dynamic of the judges’ panel. But Hollywood is full of stories of stars who mistake their speicific value in a limited niche for broad superstardom. 

The producers of Idol, for their part, are taking a risk if they think their show is bulletproof. (Expect lots of talk about how “The singers are the real stars,” which is partly true—partly.) Idol’s not going to leave the top 10 anytime soon, but in recent seasons it’s lost ground both in overall viewers and young demographics.

Paula may have caused embarrassment to the show at times, with her undiagrammable syntax, erratic judging behavior (like her scattered reference, during a Jason Castro live performance, apparently to an earlier rehearsal the home audience hadn’t seen) and off-screen controversies (such as allegations that she’d fraternized inappropriately with a contestant). But she made the show interesting. (And actually, she had a pretty good year on the judges’ panel last season, showing a streak of bluntness—even lucid bluntness—that hadn’t been there before.) Her quickness, maybe overquickness, to see the positive in a bad performance—”First of all, I love what you’re wearing…”—balanced out Simon Cowell in a way that Kara’s bland touchiness and Randy’s cliches won’t. 

Idol may have felt it couldn’t afford Paula’s demands, but it can’t afford to be boring, either. I suspect this collapsed deal will leave both sides poorer. Either that, or it’s time to start sprinkling some crazy dust on Kara DioGuardi’s cornflakes.