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    Ellen DeGeneres Leaves American Idol!

    American Idol, Ellen DeGeneres, Kara DioGuardi, Randy Jackson Michael Becker/FOX

    The spaces to fill on American Idol are multiplying.

    After one, much ballyhooed season, Ellen DeGeneres announced Thursday that she is leaving the show, citing the demanding schedule and her distaste for "hurting people's feelings."

    That and, perhaps, because there was a rumor that the producers wanted to reboot with a few new judges?

    Well, DeGeneres, who signed a multiyear contract in 2009, did say that her decision wasn't a sudden one.

    "A couple months ago, I let Fox and the American Idol producers know that this didn't feel like the right fit for me," she said in a statement. 

    "I told them I wouldn't leave them in a bind and that I would hold off on doing anything until they were able to figure out where they wanted to take the panel next. It was a difficult decision to make, but my work schedule became more than I bargained for. I also realized this season that while I love discovering, supporting and nurturing young talent, it was hard for me to judge people and sometimes hurt their feelings. I loved the experience working on Idol and I am very grateful for the year I had. I am a huge fan of the show and will continue to be."

    Well, fine. Now Ellen can go back to being everyone's best friend and biggest supporter—and Idol can get on with the program.

    Not that anyone is going to admit things unfolded any way other than amiably.

    "I loved Ellen's passion for the artists and her nurturing skills," Idol creator and executive producer Simon Fuller said in a statement. "She brought honesty and optimism to our judging panel and I will miss her greatly."

    So, did you see this one coming a mile away, or are you totally shocked that Ellen just quietly stepped down?

    (Originally published July 29, 2010, at 4:55 p.m. PT)

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    We doubt we'll see Ellen showing up on any reality show with a weekly sendoff anytime soon.

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