Next season of American Idol, already without Simon Cowell, is going to be even more different: Ellen DeGeneres is officially leaving the show, Fox said Thursday. DeGeneres’ departure comes a year before her contract is set to expire—the decision is thought to be mutual, according to Variety, which broke the story, as she was criticized frequently during the season. “I told them I wouldn’t leave them in a bind and that I would hold off on doing anything until they were able to figure out where they wanted to take the panel next,” DeGeneres said. “It was a difficult decision to make, but my work schedule became more than I bargained for.” She continued: “I also realized this season that while I love discovering, supporting, and nurturing young talent, it was hard for me to judge people and sometimes hurt their feelings.” DeGeneres’ departure raises questions about the future of the judges’ panel as a whole—as Cowell’s replacement is rumored to be named imminently. Fox also recently announced that Nigel Lythgoe, Idol's former showrunner, would return to the show next season—which, according to some reports, might mean an overhaul of the entire judges’ panel.
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