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Seven reasons Fox hasn't signed an "Idol" judge

By James Hibberd

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Simon Cowell declared he's leaving "American Idol" back in January.

Now it's a few weeks before the "Idol" judging panel goes before the cameras on the show's audition trail, and there's still no replacement named.

Oh, and Fox needs to replace Ellen DeGeneres too. And probably Kara DioGuardi.

Why is hiring a TV talent show judge (or two, or three) taking so long?

Sources say there are at least seven variables at play:

1. Chasing celebrities: If Fox tried to replace Cowell with somebody like Cowell -- a snarky record producer with a well-trained ear for spotting talent -- all this would have been over months ago. And with far less interesting results. Fox is intent on hiring somebody so famous that they don't need to judge "Idol." And anybody who fits that bill is going to want...

2. Money: Top-pick Elton John wanted too much. Now, by one report, Jennifer Lopez's deal fell apart due to her so-called "unreasonable" demands. Sources close to the matter tell The Hollywood Reporter, however, that "nothing is off the table" regarding Lopez and that Fox has not given up on her. At the end of his run, Cowell was making an estimated $36 million a year judging "Idol," but was also a proven ratings draw. Fox has to weigh how much they want to pay a famous face for a job the person has never attempted. Lopez asked for north of $20 million -- plus her own hair, makeup, styling team and her own "dressing room compound" (not dissimilar to Cowell's posh trailer). But the network does not want to pay Simon dollars for a newcomer who is going to be the show's, ahem, X factor.

3. A crowded kitchen: Any major "Idol" decision is like a Quickfire Challenge on "Top Chef" -- cooks, cooks, running everywhere, all with their own list of ingredients. The word "chaos" is oft-used to describe these ongoing conversations. You have Fox president of alternative entertainment Mike Darnell, along with entertainment chairman Peter Rice. There's 19 Entertainment chief and "Idol" creator Simon Fuller, along with returning executive producer Nigel Lythgoe. Don't forget Fremantle Media president and "Idol" executive producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz. And producers and network executives aren't the only ones with a vote...

4. The roommate factor: If hired as an "Idol" judge, the single biggest impact on your experience will be the person sitting beside you. Any celebrity intent on joining "Idol" wants to have suitable fellow judges -- either for ego reasons ("You consider him on par with me?") or for comfort ("I want somebody I'll get along with"). Lopez has this concern, as well. And getting judges who agree to work with one another is only part of the equation. There's also...

5. The chemistry set: Could "Idol" have two female judges? More than one black judge? Another Brit? What are their ages? Gay or straight? Fox and Co. have the headache of trying to create on paper a formula for success. Not to mention there's...

6. Fear of commitment. Cowell made this job look easy. Stroll from his trailer onto the "Idol" set, insult a few people, walk back to his Bentley. But participating in a season of "Idol" is a significant commitment. A month in the fall, then about four months after the first of the year, with plenty of live shows. Again, not a problem for a record producer longing for the gig, but if you're a celebrity who records albums and tours, it's a serious investment. Especially when....

7. Being the new "Idol" judge is like trying to play James Bond after Sean Connery or, at least, being the second Becky on "Roseanne." The advantages are obvious. Yet for anybody sensitive about their portrayal in the media -- and what celebrity isn't? -- the disadvantages are all-too apparent: DeGeneres and DioGuardi were ripped by some critics -- and they weren't in the position of replacing Cowell, the man who defined the job. Lopez and Tyler, since their names were published as potential judges, also resulted in some backlash. (Some suggest that gauging this backlash is the reason the names were leaked in the first place). Becoming a "Idol" judge: It's the worst best job in the world!

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