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American Idol Planning to Stick With Four Judges in Post-Paula Era

American Idol, Randy Jackson, Kara Dioguardi, Ryan Seacrest, Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell Michael Becker / FOX

Paula Abdul is gone from Idol, and Fox boss Peter Rice told reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour, "We're very sad that she's not coming back." But the show must go on. So what's the plan for Idol season nine? Well, for one thing, the four-judge setup ain't dead yet, and they're bringing in some surprise celebrity guests to fill the gap. Read on to find out who:

According to Rice, musician Katy Perry and (as previously reported) one-time Spice Girl Victoria Beckham are set to be guest judges during the audition portion of the season. Other celebrity judges will join the fray shortly, and it's not clear if any one character will stick around long-term, but per Rice, "The four judges were getting in a rhythm last year, and we will probably have four judges back."

Rice continued, "It is 24 hours [since we found out that Paula was leaving]. Our expectation and hope was that Paula would come back. I think when her current agent made the statement to the press about two weeks ago we started to think, oh, what are we going to do if she doesn't come back? We don't have deep contingencies laid in. We are going to have these guest judges do one week each. We've done that before. We've done that many many seasons of Idol where not all the judges were available to do the auditions and guest judges came in.

"There is no contingency, no expectation, no thought right now that any of these judges would be a long-term judge for us. All of the people we are talking to have successful careers. I don't think they'd really be available to judge full-time. It's not our expectation right now and it's not our plans. We have now until January to introduce a different energy into the panel, and I think we have to cast that the right way...There is going to be a search, and we have to cast that in a way that is fun and energizing and that creates some real chemistry between the people on the panel." 

Good luck, hombres! As for the rest of the gang, Rice acknowledged to reporters after the panel that Fox was still working on extending Simon Cowell's contract.

Got any suggestions for a permanent, fourth non-Paula judge? How would you feel if either the show also lost either Randy Jackson or Simon Cowell? Post your ideas and reactions in the comments.

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