Ellen DeGeneres will be American Idol’s permanent fourth judge, replacing Paula Abdul

Ellen DeGeneres will replace Paula Abdul as the fourth judge on American Idol 9, according to Fox. The network said Ellen “will sit alongside Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi and offer her own unique perspective to the contestants throughout the competition” but “will join the judges’ panel after the auditions.” Guest judges have been sitting in the fourth chair during the auditions over the past month or so.

Fox’s Mike Darnell said in the press release that Ellen “is truly one of America’s funniest people and a fantastic performer who understands what it’s like to stand up in front of audiences and entertain them every day. We feel that her vast entertainment experience — combined with her quick wit and passion for music — will add a fresh new energy to the show.”

Ellen said, “I’m thrilled to be the new judge on American Idol. I’ve watched since the beginning, and I’ve always been a huge fan. So getting this job is a dream come true, and think of all the money I’ll save from not having to text in my vote.”

Although Fox executives said they’d use female pop stars and performers as judges, they didn’t say that a pop star would necessarily fill Paula’s chair. And the announcement doesn’t even suggest Ellen has credentials in music, instead noting she’s “[a] beloved television icon and entertainment pioneer” whose “distinctive comic voice has resonated with audiences from her first stand-up comedy appearances through her work today on television, in film and in the literary world.”

While this seems somewhat random, it also seems pretty great and definitely smart: It’s a 90-degree turn at the very least, and perhaps a 180, giving the show new life in its ninth season. Besides Ellen’s popularity, how exactly she will judge contestants–Joking constantly? Just being supportive? Actually being critical?–will get people to tune in when she first appears during the semi-final rounds, which tend to be the weakest and lowest-rated part of the season.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.