Why There Is No ‘American Idol’ Without Simon Cowell

Fox should cancel “American Idol.” Put it down like a sick dog. Yank it off the air like an Adam Lambert morning show appearance. Make it disappear like Ejay Day.

With Simon Cowell leaving “Idol” after this season wraps, Fox needs to face the music and grasp that a massive chunk of the audience is going to jump ship with Simon. Americans have abandoned TV shows for far less. (Two words: Felicity haircut.) An “Idol” without Simon is a far more significant change than Keri Russell’s curly bob, though. For me — and I imagine a lot of viewers — “American Idol” is synonymous with Simon. No one can replace him.

So they shouldn’t.

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The show is already going to have a weird vibe this year with Ellen DeGeneres taking over Paula Abdul’s spot. She’s like the Stacey Carosi of “American Idol.” Do not want. And now we have this dark cloud of Simon finality (Simality?) looming over the show. It’s too much to bear! At least if we knew it was the last hurrah of the entire series, we’d be able to appreciate it on a true “farewell” note. But as is, we’ll all be thinking, “Next year, Randy Jackson will be the senior judge on ‘American Idol.’” If you didn’t just dry-heave at that statement, then you must be related to Mr. Jackson. Or a designer of “YO DAWG” T-shirts.

When the show launched in 2002, the buzz was all about Simon. Before Kelly Clarkson and Tamyra Gray became household names, we tuned in because we just had to see this mean, nasty Brit who spoke the truth. Paula Abdul’s involvement was neat as a “Where Are They Now” curiosity, and Randy Jackson was a non-entity. (I guess some things never change.) But we’d never seen anyone quite like Simon before.

Caustic, biting and brutally honest, Cowell had no qualms telling a performer (to her face!) that she was the worst singer he’d ever heard in his life. Simon was a direct contradiction to all the “You Can Do Anything” propaganda our generation was raised on. He was there to remind us all that, you know what? You can’t do anything you set your mind to, so you shouldn’t waste your time doing something you’ll never ever be good at.

Ironically, his nastiness was a breath of fresh air. No wonder the “Cranky Brit Judge” became an instant “must-have” when producing a competitive reality show. (See: “Dancing With The Stars,” “Hell’s Kitchen,” “So You Think You Can Dance,” “Grease: You’re The One That I Want,” “Skating With Celebrities,” basically everything.)

The haters are quick to point out that Simon’s been coasting the past two years with less-than-original barbs (“It’s like some ghastly … show … at lunch”), and he’s played favorites with contestants a little more than he probably should have (read: Scott MacIntyre and Danny Gokey). But he’s still a major reason we tune in. He’s the villain you respect. He’s the foil to the show’s general cheeriness. He’s made wearing t-shirts acceptable TV attire. (Okay, that last reason might only apply to me.)

Respect the brand, Fox. I love “American Idol” too f—ing much to see a ghost of its former self limp around on stage. (It’s precisely the same reason why I won’t see the Pavement reunion this year.) Announce the end date and focus all your energy on giving as a spectacular final season of “Idol,” and then a mind-blowing “The X Factor” in 2011.

Where Simon goes, I follow. (Unless Il Divo is involved.)

What do you think? Should “Idol” replace Simon or call it a day? Will you watch “The X Factor?” And do you think the world would explode if an “X Factor” contestant (perhaps a member of X-Factor) performs Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor” on “The X Factor”? Discuss.