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What the hell is going on with American Idol?

Say what you want about Simon Cowell, but he ran a tight ship. Since his departure from American Idol at the end of the last series, though, things have been a little... chaotic. Rumours circulated that the two recently-added judges, Kara DioGuardi and Ellen DeGeneres, might be fired. Both have been criticised for being insufficiently critical of contestants.

The rumours heated up last week when 'Nasty' Nigel Lythgoe, the inventor of the whole godless pop-reality enterprise with the UK's Popstars, announced he was considering returning as Idol's producer - hastily brought back, it seems, to steady the ship after Cowell's departure. Lythgoe had said before that he thought if Simon left a whole new judging panel might be in order.

And now? Well, it's anyone's guess what's going on. Ellen has quit, apparently of her own choice (but possibly before she was pushed), saying she found it hard 'to judge people and sometimes hurt their feelings.' (Not a problem for Mr. Lythgoe.) Then Jennifer Lopez said she'd been selected to replace Ellen. Now, Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler has claimed he's set to join the judging panel - prompting a new flurry of reports Kara is, indeed, for the chop.

But wait! Steven replaces Simon, J.Lo replaces E.De - there's still space for Kara, right?

Maybe not. Like the X Factor, Idol only moved to a four-judge format recently, and it's been roundly criticised as allowing too much consensus and not enough drama. And ratings were down a bit last season, meaning it's probably panic stations at Fox.

The latest reports say an announcement is due tonight, before this gets any more silly. Will Steven 'Hot Lips' Tyler really be a judge? Will Kara go? Will anyone even be watching, or will everyone watch Cowell's new US X Factor instead? Right now the only person who knows - if even he knows - is Nasty Nigel...

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