“American Idol” is hiring.
In a bloodletting nearly as swift as the mass dismissals of Hollywood Week, the show has lost as many as two judges: Ellen DeGeneres, who says she left of her own accord (“I’ve voted myself off ‘American Idol,’” she tweeted), and, according to TMZ.com, Kara DioGuardi, who the website says was shown the door.
That’s three openings on a four-judge panel, since snarky Brit Simon Cowell has already left the franchise.
Sure, “Idol” has lost some of its luster after this year’s ho-hum season, but it’s still one of the most popular shows in the country, which means it should set its sights on top-tier talent. Lots of names have been floated: Elton John, Justin Timberlake, Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler, Harry Connick Jr., Usher, Howard Stern.
The only way “Idol” can reclaim its former glory, though, is to aim higher. Here are a few suggestions:
» Pedigree: Former leader of the free world, noted saxophonist.
» Rationale: A man who survived an impeachment trial should have no problem putting the Sanjayas of the world in their place. Also, he reunited Fleetwood Mac in 1993. That’s power.
» Why he might do it: He’s been out of office for nearly a decade, but the camera still loves Bubba, and the feeling is still mutual.
» Signing bonus: If Paula Abdul was to return, his experience with boozy Russian premier Boris Yeltsin would be invaluable.
» Pedigree: Actor, Oscar-winning director, noted crazy person.
» Rationale: Ellen DeGeneres said part of the reason she left “Idol” was “it was hard for me to judge people and sometimes hurt their feelings.” Mel has no such hangups.
» Why he might do it: Megalomania; inability to find other work.
» Signing bonus: Instant publicity, although some of that notice might come from people with picket signs.
» Pedigree: Queen of daytime television, multiple Emmy award winner, the woman who brought us Dr. Phil.
» Rationale: She’s an incisive interviewer and a friend to many in the music industry. Also, she sang her own theme song in 1998. Eat your heart out, Kara DioGuardi.
» Why she might do it: She’s got a new cable network starting up, but with her storied talk show shutting down next year, Oprah could use a platform like “American Idol” to reach a larger broadcast audience.
» Signing bonus: All contestants get new cars!
» Pedigree: Co-founder and CEO of Apple Computers, turtleneck enthusiast.
» Rationale: His keynote addresses at Apple’s yearly conferences are as hotly anticipated as anything Lady Gaga releases. Also, he has the superhuman ability to make any gadget awesome. As long as no antennas are involved.
» Why he might do it: He’s secretly creating a device to make anyone sound like an off-key “Idol” auditioner. It’ll be called the iPutz.
» Signing bonus: Fills the guy-who-wears-the-same-outfit-every-week role vacated by the v-neck sporting Simon Cowell.
» Pedigree: Grammy-winning musician, persistent Internet meme.
» Rationale: As Kanye himself told the Huffington Post in 2008: “I realize that my place and position in history is that I will go down as the voice of this generation.” So he can teach the contestants humility, of course.
» Why he might do it: To promote his new Twitter feed.
» Signing bonus: He’s one of the few people on the planet more quotable than Simon.
Photos by Fox; Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images; Carlo Allegri/Getty Images; Franco Origlia/Getty Images; Justin Sullivan/Getty Images; Christopher Polk/Getty Images