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EXCLUSIVE: American Idol Secret Focus Groups Paving Way For Paula Abdul Return

Aug. 18 2009, Published 12:15 p.m. ET

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Focus groups are going to help the folks at Fox determine just how much money they need to offer Paula Abdul to bring her back to American Idol, has learned exclusively.

The TV executives want to know how audiences respond to any new judge other than Paula.  “They know no one can replace Paula,” a source said.  The testing will help them see just how damaging it might be not to have Abdul back and figure out just what their new financial offer should be.

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“Fox loooves focus groups,” a well-placed TV executive told RadarOnline.  “If Paula consistently scores far higher than any other person in her chair, they will feel compelled to make her an offer she can’t refuse and make this deal happen.”

Paula will not be seen in any of the early audition shows; that much is certain.  The fourth judge for those outings will be the likes of Victoria Beckham, Mary J. Blige and Shania Twain. Although none of these guest judges is being considered as Paula’s replacement, video of them on the job will be used for comparison purposes with the focus groups.

Those who know Paula the best believe she wants to make it happen too.  One of her closest associates told that Paula was “bored” after eight seasons as well as feeling under-appreciated by the show’s producers and executives at Fox.

Paula has always believed that she was the most important personality in the cast with more fan appeal than Simon Cowell or Ryan Seacrest.  She could not believe they were handed such huge deals and she was not.

Simon Cowell
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She also often told friends that she did not believe American Idol could survive without her, another insider told

“It’s not that she doesn’t have other things going on, she does,” the friend said. “But it is so much easier to go back to Idol and use that as a platform to promote all her other ventures.  Everyone who knows her believes she will be back.”  All parties are back in talks – if not exactly formal negotiations -- about exactly how to make what seems to be the inevitable happen.

The show’s producers had wanted four judges from the very beginning of American Idol, has also learned.  There are four at every other Idol around the world – from Japan to Australia to would-you-believe Afghanistan.

“There will be four judges at American Idol come January,” a well-placed source said.  “And that fourth judge will be Paula Abdul.”



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