With Paula, Nicole and Steve Jones out at X Factor, who should be in?
That might be the only person who can save Simon Cowell's talent show The X Factor now, amid news that the former American Idol star has fired almost everyone who appeared on camera with him during the show's inaugural season.
Yup, judge Nicole Scherzinger, host Steve Jones and Cowell's pal Paula Abdul are all out the door in a housecleaning aimed at juicing a show widely viewed as a disappointment by fans and industry watchers.
Abdul said on Twitter Tuesday that she saw the hook coming, as all sides released statements trying to but the best spin on a brutal course correction. She tweeted: "I have absolute understanding of the situation. Simon [Cowell] is, and will remain a dear friend of mine and I've treasured my experience working this past season."
Given Idol's wobbly ratings this year, it's entirely possible that X Factor's biggest problem is viewers' fatigue with singing shows (we'll learn that for sure when NBC's The Voice comes back to new episodes next week).
But whatever fatigue affecting fans surely wasn't helped by Jones' uncomfortable delivery, Scherzinger's oddly self-centered actions and Abdul's surprising lack of chemistry with fellow Idol refugee, Cowell.
Now the question emerges, big as Cowell's oversize ego: Who should the show hire next?
John, a blockbuster pop star Idol tried hiring before settling on Steven Tyler and J. Lo., is a dream hire who would add instant buzz and credibility. Which is probably why he won't do it.
But who else could fill the impossibly pretty shoes of Jones and Co.?
Mariah Carey -- Top contender to fill the crazy diva slot abandoned by Abdul. But could she handle the pressure of live judging?
Madonna - There's a question whether her and Cowell's egos could fit in the same arena. But the dueling British accents would be priceless.
Harry Connick, Jr. - Since his star turn as performer and mentor on Idol a few years ago, his name comes up constantly for music judging gigs. But Cowell likely wouldn't present a panel with three men -- especially one who is better-looking and more talented than the guys already there (snap!)
Ryan Seacrest - Yeah, it's a long shot, but he can probably fit in X Factor between taking over NBC's Today show and revitalizing Mark Cuban's little-seen HD Net channel.
Regis Philbin -- I hear his schedule has opened up.
Who would you suggest?