A few thoughts on Ellen DeGeneres bowing out of Fox's "American Idol," and the multiple reports, including one from the not-prone-to-speculation Associated Press, that Jennifer Lopez will replace the already departed Simon Cowell at the judges' table:
-- Should J. Lo choose to continue Simon's tradition of wearing too-tight sweaters and T-shirts over his trademark jeans, I'm expecting to hear far fewer complaints about it.
-- Fox, which smartly handled Simon's exit during the Television Critics Association's winter meetings in January, bringing him before reporters to sign his new contract for "The X Factor" while we watched -- though from where I was sitting at the time, he could easily have been signing a blank sheet of paper -- is now poised for another nicely choreographed PR move. Because TCA's summer barbecue's under way in Beverly Hills once again and Fox's turn on the grill begins Monday.
-- Whatever I think of DeGeneres' official story, distributed by Fox Thursday night, that she'd approached Fox and "American Idol" producers a couple of months ago to tell them that being a judge on the show "didn't feel like the right fit for me," I think she -- and the show -- will be better off with her out of there. It probably did, as she said, take more time than she'd expected, given that she very much has a day job. And, yes, it did sometimes require her to hurt contestants' feelings, which isn't exactly something the talk-show host is known for. But the show now has an opportunity to cut the judging panel back to three, something it should have done when Paula Abdul left.
-- If, as TMZ.com is reporting, Kara DioGuardi is also leaving the show, it's even better news. And though no one's asked me about replacements for any of these people, count me in as a member of Team Timberlake. Though I find myself hoping that they'll at least keep Randy Jackson around so the show will still be recognizable.
-- Should Fox wrap up its J.Lo deal in time to bring her out for even a short Q&A on Monday, it will have once again schooled another network in the handling of a tricky personnel issue. Just as Simon's announcement came against the backdrop of Conan O'Brien's dramatic and drawn-out departure from NBC's "Tonight Show" -- a PR disaster of immense proportions -- DeGeneres' statement yesterday and the apparent timing of the Lopez announcement stands in contrast to whatever's going on at ABC, where entertainment president Steve McPherson abruptly submitted his resignation just days before he was due to meet with reporters during ABC's day with the critics on Sunday.
No, we're not that scary, and there's a long tradition of executive departures occurring just before these semiannual "executive sessions," since networks are generally reluctant to send lame-duck presidents out in front of the press. Usually, though, it's considered an opportunity to introduce the new programming chief to reporters, something ABC as of early Friday had given no indication it plans to do on Sunday, perhaps because McPherson's departure, which was accompanied by speculation in several outlets, including the Hollywood Reporter, that it might be related to an investigation into alleged sexual-harassment claims, appears to have come before the network had a deal in place with his successor. (McPherson, it must be said, is denying those claims, TV Guide reporting yesterday that a spokesman for the former ABC chief had said a law firm had been retained to deal with the "the false and defamatory stories fueled by unknown and anonymous sources.")
Update: Friday afternoon, ABC finally announced that Paul Lee, chief of ABC Family, had been named the new head of the ABC entertainment group. He's now expected to meet with reporters on Sunday, according to TCA president Susan Young.