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Goodbye Paula

PASADENA, Calif. -- Paula, Paula, Paula.

Not surprisingly, the decision of "American Idol" judge Paula Abdul to dance away from the popular show after a contract dispute was the main topic of a press conference today with Fox executives.

Only about 30 minutes after former "Idol" producer Nigel Lythgoe said he wasn't sure if Abdul really was leaving "Idol" because there is "always opportunity for re-negotiation," Fox executives Peter Rice and Kevin Reilly remained firm.

Rice, the chairman of Fox entertainment, said she's history as far as Fox is concerned. He added Fox hoped she was coming back but had preliminary discussions about potential replacements about two weeks ago when her new agent suggested she might not return.

Some critics still are more accepting of Lythgoe's re-negotiation scenario than the Fox executives' stand that the fat lady had sang and it was over.

Rice said the tentative plan is to fill in with guest judges for the audition episodes, which begin shortly. Rice confirmed that Victoria Beckham and Katy Perry already are on board and he added several other pop singers were being sought to temporarily fill the fourth seat alongside Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi.

"Between now and January we will come up with a permanent solution," said Rice. "Obviously there is going to be a different dynamic... There also is something exciting about that and we're be looking to bring a different element and a different energy to this season."

He added there was a "possibility" the show would go with only three judges once the live shows begin in January but he didn't believe it was a "probability."

The Fox executives also denied reports that host Ryan Seacrest will be making $15 million this year on "Idol" after signing a new contract. They said Seacrest signed a new contract with the show's production company to do many things. But they added he is being paid for "Idol" under the same terms of a continuing contract and is not getting $15 million to host "Idol."

Meanwhile, Lythgoe,who is now executive producer of "So You Think You Can Dance," seems ready to give Abdul a part-time landing spot. He said he'd love to have her as a guest judge on that show.

"I've been trying to get her since season one," said Lythgoe.

I think If the "Idol" producers can get more big name guest judges like Beckham and Perry and they actually contribute some insight, Abdul's departure may end up being addition by subtraction. However, some other critics here think she'll be back by the live January shows, giving the show a promotional boost.

What do you think?

-- Alan Pergament 

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