“American Idol”: Paula has, uh, lost it

Attending the “Idol” taping last night made me feel like a first-hand witness to the beginning of the end.

Not so much on “Idol” itself, which is having ratings woes but still dominates the competition and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but on Paula Abdul, who hit a new low — even for Paula standards.Paula_2

Sure, the format was changed when the kids did five performances in a row before hearing from the judges. And, yeah, it was somewhat difficult for the judges to compile their thoughts on all the songs in a compressed time period.

But when Paula started commenting on Jason’s second song, before he had even sung it, well, it just sent the in-studio audience into a kind of “what just happened” moment. When the show went to a commercial break right after, Paula scurried out of her seat, head down and left the stage without saying a word.

She, obviously, knew she had screwed up big time, but the episode didn’t come off as an easy and forgettable laugh or just another  “Hey, isn’t that Paula wacky” scenario. This seemed far more serious; at least if felt that way at the time.

While there’s little question Paula’s antics can make for a ratings bump — in the way rubberneckers like to slow down on freeway to get a look at an accident — doesn’t producer Nigel Lythgoe owe it to viewers, and especially the contestants, to use the most qualified judges as possible if the show is to have any credibility at all?

Simon, as good and honest as he is, can carry the load on his shoulders for only so long.

— Stuart Levine

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