Abdul a No-Show at Idol Session

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The biggest American Idol news out of Fox’s Television Critics Association session Tuesday in Pasadena, Calif., involved who was not there.

Critics booed when Fox announced that Idol judge Paul Abdul, who was at the center of a controversy last year involving an alleged romantic involvement with a contestant (she was ultimately cleared) would not make a scheduled panel session.

During his earlier executive session, Fox Entertainment President Peter Liguori tried to put the matter to rest, saying there was no concrete evidence to take action against Abdul. But when critics were told Abdul “had an eye infection” and was on her way to a doctor but would still make the Fox party Tuesday evening, a loud chorus of disapproval rang out.

During the Idol session with fellow judges Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson, the two joked that Abdul’s eye “fell out” when asked what was wrong with her.

Cowell denied reports that he came close to walking out during his recent contract negotiations, which resulted in a lucrative, multiyear pact for him. He said it was an “easy decision” to stay put and he believes the program will remain popular for the next several years.

He also lashed out at Kelly Clarkson, the first winner, for not allowing some of her songs to be cleared for the show, saying she owed her success to the program.

Under questioning about whether all the untalented wannabes who appear during the audition stage hurt the top-rated show’s integrity, executive producer Simon Fuller attributed the loonies to being part of the “circus that is American Idol.”

Fellow executive producer Nigel Lythgoe said the “bad make the good better.”

And Jackson said he believes viewers always pick the “right winner,” which “validates” the series.

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