Ellen DeGeneres named 4th 'American Idol' judge

September 9, 2009 7:42:01 PM PDT
Ellen DeGeneres is dancing her way into the fourth judge's seat on "American Idol." Fox announced Wednesday the talk show host and comedian, who admittedly has no formal music experience, just a passion for tunes, would join Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi for the ninth season. The announcement all but seals the departure of Paula Abdul, the original third judge who announced she was quitting amid a contract dispute in July.

The announcement came as a shock to many of the popular singing competition's fans, who did not expect the Emmy-winning talk show host to fill Abdul's spot. DeGeneres told her talk show audience in an episode scheduled to air Thursday that she had been "dying to tell everyone" and would not abandon her chatfest. Instead, she will have "a day job and a night job."

"The times we're living in," she quipped, "we're all doing that."

Abdul had been replaced by a succession of guest judges across the country as "Idol" started next season's auditions. Among them: Victoria Beckham, Mary J. Blige, Kristin Chenoweth, Joe Jonas, Neil Patrick Harris, Avril Lavigne, Katy Perry and Shania Twain - but not the 51-year-old DeGeneres, who will join the ninth season following the show's tryout rounds.

"Hopefully, I'm the people's point of view because I'm just like you," DeGeneres said on her talk show. "I sit at home and I watch it, and I don't have that technical ... I'm not looking at it in a critical way from the producer's mind. I'm looking at it as a person who is going to buy the music and is going to relate to that person."

It won't be DeGeneres' first time in a reality TV judge's seat - or on "Idol." She served as a guest judge earlier this summer on "So You Think You Can Dance," critiquing the dancing competition's top eight finalists. In 2007, she was the co-host of "Idol Gives Back," the singing contest's charity event. She returned the next year in a pre-taped segment.

"Beyond her incredible sense of humor and love of music, she brings with her an immense warmth and compassion that is almost palpable," said "Idol" executive producer and FremantleMedia North America CEO Cecile Frot-Coutaz. "She is one of America's foremost entertainers, and we cannot wait to have her join our team."

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AP Television Writer Lynn Elber contributed to this report. ---

Fox is a unit of News Corp. ---

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