Here we go again. For the second year in a row, Jennifer Lopez is very openly and publicly admitting that she might not return to American Idol for another season. But we all know how it turned out the first time: she was in the middle of contract negotiations and kept mentioning to the press the possibility of leaving. So FOX made her an offer she couldn’t refuse ($20 million), and voila, she was back.

Steven Tyler Officially Leaves Idol>>

But things may be a little different this time. Even though Lopez is using many of the same tactics for leverage in her negotiations, there are even more whispers now that she really and truly is ready to leave Idol. (They started back in May and have ramped up this week to coincide with the new rumors flying around.) As TMZ reports, “Jennifer Lopez is telling friends … she HAS NOT made up her mind on her future with American Idol … and WILL NOT make a decision until after she finishes her current concert tour with Enrique Iglesias. There are reports Jennifer has already informed producers she’s a no-go to return to the judge’s table next season … but sources close to JLo tell us the reports are absolutely not true.”

Lopez appeared on Today this morning to promote Ice Age: Continental Drift, in which she voices one of the characters. After talking about the film, the topic turned to Idol, and what she said in this interview is very revealing: “The truth is … I’ve enjoyed it so much, but I am thinking it’s maybe time for me to go and do other things. I really love to do, like, films … and performing.” She used that same line last year about wanting to work on other projects. However, she eventually said point blank, “I love everybody, I love all the guys on the show, I love the family that’s there … but I am thinking it’s time for me to go and do other things I love to do.” If she is to be believed, then it sounds like she definitely is leaning towards leaving.

Rumor Has It

If Jennifer Lopez does in fact leave American Idol, who should replace her … or any of the judges, for that matter, as E! Online makes note that the show could let go of Steven Tyler and/or Randy Jackson as well. And the first rumored name that popped up this week was none other than season 8 runner-up Adam Lambert. When asked to comment, both Lambert and executive producer Nigel Lythgoe denied it, saying that the reports are just rumors.

Then the floodgates started. What seems like every big name under the sun is being mentioned as possible new¬†judges, including Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, Fergie, Katy Perry (who has confirmed that she won’t sign on due to time commitment issues), and Mariah Carey. When he denied the Lambert talks, Lythgoe also said, “It’s a bit like … when they were looking for judges for X Factor. Everybody’s name came up. It’s going to be the same with American Idol.” He’s certainly right on that front. (Speaking of the showrunner, he even threw some names of his own into the mix, Charlie Sheen and Jerry Lewis, even though it’s obvious he was only joking.)

Are any of the above rumored names actually being considered? Should any of them be hired on, or will it be someone else? Out of these names, there is one that stands out: Adam Lambert. He was a guest mentor during season 9 and was regarded as one of the best mentors the show has ever had, providing very strong comments and constructive critiques to help the contestants. has also served as guest mentor, and may be beneficial to the panel as well.

But after the Lambert rumor was squashed, I don’t believe that a new judge(s) will come from this list. MJsBigBlog’s MJ Santilli, who is an expert on everything Idol, warned readers recently that back when the show was searching for new judges after Simon Cowell, Ellen DeGeneres and Kara DioGuardi left, Lopez and Tyler were not in the mix when rumored names first surfaced that year. (In fact, the choice of Tyler came late in the process and seemed to come out of left field.)

What Happens Now?

While all the attention is on JLo, the fact that the other judges could be let go is worth taking a look at. Randy Jackson has been on the show since Day 1. Fans have criticized him for years for overstaying his welcome (I personally agree; he should have left about five years ago). Someone like an Adam Lambert (or someone who could provide genuine critiques) would be a great addition and would freshen up the show immensely. As for Steven Tyler? He’s hilarious and says the craziest things, but he’s also been harped on for saying everything is beautiful and not actually judging, another argument I agree with.

If any of the judges stay, I would rather it be Jennifer, as she can provide the balance between sometimes being extremely nice and sometimes being critical. And no matter if one judge or two judges leave, at least one of the celebrities joining the panel needs to bring honesty back to the forefront, whether it’s Lambert, Harry Connick, Jr. (a personal favorite), or someone else. Simon Cowell may have moved on to The X Factor, but the American Idol judges panel needs its own X Factor: someone who’s not only famous that can bring in viewers (after a season that saw The Voice bring in higher ratings at times), but also a person who’s not afraid to tell the truth.

(Image courtesy of WENN)

Jeff Dodge

Staff Writer, BuddyTV

Jeff Dodge, a graduate of Western Washington University, has been a TV news editor for many years and has had the chance to interview multiple reality show stars, including Randy Jackson, Nick Cannon, Heidi Klum, Mel B and John Cena.