TCA Press Tour: Fox rebounds from its breakup with Paula Abdul


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Breakups are never easy.

On Thursday, the network dumped by Paula Abdul faced the TV critics at the press tour, and one thing was clear: Fox executives move quickly through the stages of grief. Only 36 hours before the press conference, Abdul announced her breakup with Fox and ‘American Idol’ in a thoroughly modern way -- via Twitter (and we thought the Post-It note breakup on ‘Sex and the City’ was rough!) -- but already executives are talking about new beginnings and exciting prospects.

Industry observers -- and even ‘Idol’ fans -- have had a tougher time, tweeting, blogging and noting that anything is possible in the Abdul universe and she could come crawling back. There is even the ‘Save Paula’ campaign on Twitter.


But it’s over, Fox Chairman of Entertainment Peter Rice said, not in a haughty or mean way. Simply, it’s definitely over. Rice has clearly reached that final stage: acceptance.

‘We were hoping Paula came back,’ Rice said. ‘We love Paula. She’s been clearly wonderful on the show for eight years and was an important part of the ‘Idol’ family. There’s going to be a change. It wasn’t a decision we made. But now that the decision’s been made, we have to look at it in a positive way. We have to look at it as an opportunity for the show to bring a different energy to it and an energy that can be entertaining for the public.’

In other words, Fox and the No. 1 show in America will survive. Already, executives have lined up Katy Perry and Victoria Beckham to fill in as guest judges during the auditions, which begin filming on Friday in Denver.

‘Our intention is for guest judges to be female pop stars, female performers, female artists,’ Rice said. ‘And between now and January, we will come up with a more permanent solution on a replacement for Paula.’

‘Obviously, there’s going to be a different dynamic,’ Rice said. ‘There’s going to be a change this year. There’s something exciting about that. We will be looking to bring a different element with a different energy to this season.’

Abdul’s emotional manner and frequent incoherence undoubtedly will be missed by some viewers of the show. After all, who will be there to beat Simon Cowell when he misbehaves? Fox President of Entertainment Kevin Reilly is over it. If Walter Cronkite was replaced -- he actually said this -- Abdul can be too.

‘When shows are this successful, it’s very to easy to take for granted the level of producing because things seem so seamless,’ Reilly said. ‘You find the perfect mix of surprising contestants. An Adam Lambert emerges or the two Davids of last season .... When you’ve got that kind of producing, I’m not saying it’s easy, you’re messing with chemistry that works, but I think we’re pretty confident they’re going to find that.’


What would that take? Another nurturing woman who wears her heart on her sleeve?

‘The quality is someone with a great persona,’ said Mike Darnell, Fox’s president of alternative programming. ‘Really, what she brought was her own persona. She was absolutely unique.’

Abdul is in Atlanta today filming scenes for Lifetime’s ‘Drop Dead Diva,’ on which she has a recurring role.

Reilly had this to say about Abdul’s Twitter announcement:

‘Lance Armstrong was Twittering while he was riding the Tour de France. Now, that’s impressive.’

--Maria Elena Fernandez

--Photo Credit: Paula Abdul/Lifetime Television