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By Jill Serjeant
LOS ANGELES, July 29 "American Idol" judge
Ellen DeGeneres unexpectedly quit the top-rated television
singing show on Thursday after just a year in the job, saying
it was not the right fit for her.
The popular U.S. talk show host and comedian, whose
addition to the panel had largely disappointed viewers, said
the workload was more than she expected and she found it hard
to hurt the feelings of contestants.
"A couple months ago, I let (TV network) Fox and the
'American Idol' producers know that this didn't feel like the
right fit for me," DeGeneres said in a statement.
"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," she added.
DeGeneres, who signed a five year contract with "Idol" in
2009, is the second judge to quit the show this year. Abrasive
British judge Simon Cowell left in May to launch his own talent
show in late 2011.
Cowell's replacement has not yet been announced and rumors
have flown around the Internet this week that a wholesale
revamp of the show and the judges may be underway for the 10th
season starting in January.
"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."
DeGeneres was hired last summer to replace the volatile but
popular Paula Abdul, who quit in a contract renewal dispute.
DeGeneres was expected to bring humor and new viewers to the
show, but the choice was widely criticized because she lacked
music industry credentials. TV critics and many fans also felt
she lacked chemistry.
Viewership for "American Idol" also continued to slip this
year, falling to an average 24.1 million viewers overall, from
a high of 30.8 million in 2006.
The surprise departure of DeGeneres leaves producers with
just two judges -- Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi -- one
month before auditions in front of the panel begin in September
for the 10th season.
Singers ranging from Jessica Simpson and Justin Timberlake
to Chris Isaak and Sir Elton John have been rumored to be
contenders for a judging spot.
Fox has declined to confirm or deny any of the names.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)