Paula Abdul is not coming back to American Idol? Riiiight. But her agent this week insists Abdul doesn't yet have a proposal for a new contract to return to the top-rated talent show and says there's serious doubt she'll return for Idol's ninth season. Uh-huh. Sounds like typical Hollywood media manipulation to us (Twitter's already noted #KeepPaulaAbdul as one of its top Trending Topics). We'd be shocked if American's looniest judge isn't sitting front and center in January when Fox's moneymaker is up and running again. But remember this, Paula: You better be ready for Fox to call your bluff, because just about anyone on TV is replaceable. Here are our picks for "can't lose" and "won't miss" hosts leading TV's biggest unscripted shows.
Don't lose these hosts
Jeff Probst/Phil Keoghan: The hosts of Survivor and The Amazing Race are more than the familiar, charismatic faces guiding contestants and viewers each week; they're also hands-on producers who take responsibility for casting, helping choose locations and shaping major elements of the show.
Padma Lakshmi: Don't recognize the name? We bet you'd know her face. The Indian-American model is the host of Bravo's Top Chef series. And there's nothing more steely than hearing her to tell you to "pack your knives and go."
Simon Cowell: We don't mean to be rude, Paula, but Simon is the ONLY judge that Idol can't afford to let go. His heartless but direct criticism of would-be stars is almost as sharp as his eye for talent and ruthlessness in exploiting them.
Tyra Banks: It's not that the fashion model-turned-executive producer/host is particularly good at reciting the canned lines they feed her on the CW's America's Next Top Model. But her oddball sense of humor and drama — she once started a competition pretending to be an android, replete with bad, aluminum-colored costume — lend a traffic accident sort of appeal.
Don't let door hit on the way out
Alison Sweeney: Sometimes it's hard to remember that NBC's The Biggest Loser even has a host. That's because Sweeney's personality has as many calories as a glass of water and a Triscuit.
Samantha Harris: At times, it seemed the former E! correspondent's miscues, stupid questions and obvious jitters on ABC's hit Dancing with the Stars were just her way of making co-host Tom Bergeron look good. Then you realize: She's actually trying really hard. And you almost feel pity for how she's screwing up TV's second-most popular show.
Nick Cannon: Hard to imagine that America's Got Talent could have found a more useless host than Jerry Springer. But Mr. Mariah Carey comes close, shepherding TV's Wal-Mart of talent shows with such lack of wit and clunky charm you almost forget he was once one of Nickelodeon's brightest new stars.
Julie Chen: Does anyone really think the Early Show news reader would still have this cushy gig hosting CBS' Big Brother if she weren't also married to the head of the network?
Times staff writers Steve Spears and Eric Deggans contributed to this report, which contains material from the Associated Press.