After months of anticipation, Ellen Degeneres finally joined the judge panel on American Idol, as the Hollywood phase of this season got underway. Although her total time on air in the one hour episode was just a few minutes, it was enough to give us a taste of what she'll be like sitting on the high court of America's most popular TV show. So far it bodes well for FOX. She's witty but not distracting or overwhelming. She also seems to be taking the whole task very seriously. With her stylish reading glasses perched on the table and pen in hand, she looked like a favorite teacher about to grade a stack of tests. Sensing (like a prey animal) a competition she could not possibly hope to win, Kara actually took it down a few notches in the presence of Ms. Ellen, and in the process became a more thoughtful judge.
The format for this first of the "weeding out the hopeless" phase was choppy and frustrating. We never really get to see any of the contestants finish an entire song as they ran the Kodak Theater gauntlet, sweating and hyperventilating. Ellen has established that she is not going to fill Paula Abdul's fuzzy slippers. If anything, she was almost too hard on some of the singers. I was very sorry to see the Tennessee mountain girl cut (nerves got her) but at least she got her first ride on an aeroplane. I also did not expect to see the hottie cancer survivor guy gone so early in the competition. Some interesting talent made it through however, including a diamond in the rough single mom who had the audience in the palm of her hand with a powerful version of You Make Me Feel (like a Natural Woman).
Tonight is group night in Hollywood...can't wait for more Ellen. She has brought a new level of excitement to Season 9! Too bad all the video of her from last night's telecast has been disabled on YouTube or I would have posted a snippet here. You'll just have to watch and judge the new judge for yourself.