With Ellen replacing Paula, has Idol jumped the shark?

Last night, the producers of American Idol announced they had signed on Ellen DeGeneres to replace Paula Abdul as the show's fourth judge. My first reaction to this news is not printable in a family blog as I was really hoping Paula would come back, and as, for all her charms, Ellen does not have much experience on which to base advice to an aspiring musical performer. My second reaction is that Idol has jumped the shark.

Jump the shark refers to a 1977 episode of Happy Days in which The Fonz went water skiing and jumped over a shark. Such desperate efforts to revive interest in a TV show generally send a signal that a show is on its last legs. However, Happy Days was not canceled immediately thereafter -- instead it went on to 100 more episodes.

Similarly, I don't see Idol going off the air in 2011, but I do think Idol producers are making a losing bet with Ellen. It appears they are gambling that The Ellen DeGeneres Show fans who do not already watch Idol -- of which there are probably very few -- will outnumber the total viewers who would leave the show due to Paula's absence plus those who would stop watching because they object to Ellen's "lifestyle."

And there may be many of those latter category of fans, particularly when considering the many fans that pushed this year's most talented performer -- Adam Lambert -- out of the top spot in favor of Kris Allen. I would guess that there were many Kris voters who vastly preferred his lifestyle to Adam's.

I also doubt Ellen's presence on the show will do anything to change the voting patterns in favor of next year's Adam -- if there is one next year. Meanwhile, I imagine that Ellen is pleased with the chance to bring some of the Idol audience to her show.

In the meantime, I will tune in to Idol in January to see whether Ellen can keep me watching Idol for another season. Since the singers are the most important part of the show that keeps me watching, I am not sure whether her presence will make that much of a difference to me.

How about you?

Peter Cohan is amanagement consultant, Babson professor and author of eight books, includingYou Can't Order Change. Follow him on Twitter.

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