Idol is “pleased” with Kara, who Simon says is “good for” Idol; Cowell’s talk of quitting is “not negotiating”

For some reason, the media seems intent upon creating some drama by insisting that Kara DioGuardi is on her way out of American Idol. Perhaps that’s because they need some conflict even where there isn’t any, or because it’s too difficult for some journalists to keep track of four judges instead of three.

I’m still a Kara fan: At the very least, I think her presence has caused the rest of the panel to up their games in a way that we haven’t seen for years. And Kara frequently offers a combination of the best of the other three judges: criticism, support, and industry knowledge. Sure, sometimes she babbles, but look criticially at what we’ve come to expect from the other three judges (“dawg, you did your thing”; “you look amazing”; “dreadful”) and it’s not exactly like they always offered consistently insightful commentary.

Most recently, OK! tried to sell some magazines with a Paula vs. Kara: Idol Wars cover story in which an anonymous “insider” claimed “The plan to add a fourth person backfired” and “the producers are left with a tough decision: Do they go back to the original three-judge format, or leave Kara there?” But OK!’s report doesn’t jibe with what any of the show’s principals are saying publicly.

When I interviewed her a few weeks ago, Kara insisted that reports of strife between her and the other three judges were “really not true” and that “if we weren’t speaking and we had real issues … I’d probably have to quit the show; I wouldn’t be able to do it.”

And that’s still true. In an Associated Press story about Kara that covers a lot of the same ground, American Idol executive producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz said, “We’re certainly not talking about going back to three at this point. … We’re pleased with the fourth judge.” However, she said “we’re going to try and help them with [the length of their critiques] and give them a sense of their timing so that we keep it under control a bit more.”

Simon Cowell feels the same way about Kara’s presence on the show, telling the New York Times that although there are “some practical problems with a fourth judge,” he said, “I think it’s good for the show.”

In the same story, Simon Cowell insists that his talk about quitting the show is not about negotiating a higher salary. “When I signed the latest extension on ‘Idol’ through next season, it felt like that was going to be the right amount of time. It still feels right,” he told the Times. “It’s not negotiating. I have as good a relationship with the people from Fox as you possibly can have. They’ve become friends. I don’t bull them. I don’t want to get bored, and I don’t want the audience to get bored.”

Simon says the show would survive without him: “I think the show could go on for another 5 or 10 years. It would just be a different type show.” But media buyer Brad Agate, a VP at Horizon Media, told the paper that Simon leaving “would be catastrophic for the show, particularly since it is beginning to show signs of viewer fatigue this season.”

Finally, as to judges leaving, Paula Abdul’s contract is up soon, and she told ABC News, “this is my last season under contract” and when asked if she was staying, said, “I love the show, I do. I love what I do on the show, and I’m loving it more this season than ever. It’s taken me a while to get comfortable in my own skin with the show.” Thanks for clearing that up, Paula.

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