Ellen DeGeneres is leaving Fox's "American Idol."
As previously reported, Fox has been looking to shake-up the "Idol" format, including potentially ditching current judges and bringing back producer Nigel Lythgoe, as well as lowering its audition age to 16. Fox released a flurry of statements saying the move was DeGeneres' decision, but as recent as last week the performer's reps told The Hollywood Reporter she was still willing to fulfill her contract with the show.
"A couple months ago, I let Fox and the 'American Idol' producers know that this didn't feel like the right fit for me," DeGeneres said. "I told them I wouldn't leave them in a bind and that I would hold off on doing anything until they were able to figure out where they wanted to take the panel next. It was a difficult decision to make, but my work schedule became more than I bargained for. I also realized this season that while I love discovering, supporting and nurturing young talent, it was hard for me to judge people and sometimes hurt their feelings. I loved the experience working on 'Idol' and I am very grateful for the year I had. I am a huge fan of the show and will continue to be."
DeGeneres' tenure on as an "Idol" judge was criticized for relying too heavily on pre-scripted-sounding quips rather than inspired analysis of contestant performances. Sophomore judge Kara DioGuardi is also said to be potentially exiting the show, while Randy Jackson, who has another year on his contract, is considered likely to stay.
"We love Ellen and understand and support her decision to bow out of 'Idol,'" said Peter Rice, chairman of entertainment, Fox Networks Group. "We were fortunate to receive the humor, energy and love for talent that she brought to the show."
"It was a joy to work with Ellen," added Mike Darnell, president of alternative entertainment, Fox. "She brought an incredible spirit to 'Idol' and was a great new addition to the team. While we're saddened by her decision, we are very appreciative that she gave us ample notice so that we could work through it together."