Elton John, Jessica Simpson, Justin Timberlake

Jo Hale/Getty Images; James Devaney/WireImage.com; AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Conspiracy Corner, Comic Con 2009 Brick

Justin Timberlake, Elton John and Jessica Simpson are in?! Randy Jackson, Kara DioGuardi and Ellen DeGeneres are out?!

From the looks of it, American Idol is about to blow up American Idol.

But looks—and rumors—can be deceiving. Is the show really hitting reboot? Is it trying to distract us from the disappointment that was the past season? Or what…?

So far, so normal on Planet Idol.

The early audition rounds are underway, and they're drawing crowds, not to mention Justin Bieber-aspiring 15-year-olds (the result of a previously announced tweak). And if the celebrity judges weren't at the cattle-calls, then that's normal too. 

Reports that onetime Idol guru Nigel Lythgoe is set to return are so old they're virtually normal, too. But this is where things get interesting.

Lythgoe's on the record as being a fan of the "nuclear option," as the Hollywood Reporter describes the hotly rumored judges' purge.

An Idol on the hunt for more than one new golden-ticket giver would explain the proliferation of stars supposedly being pursued by the show. But this is where things get more interesting.

Yes, Simpson met with producers, but, no, nothing came of the confab, a source close to the show tells E! News. And, yes, John and Timberlake were each approached about becoming the all-new Simon Cowell, the same source reports, but, no, nothing came of those talks, either. (The pop stars both passed.)

So, does this mean all this talk of big changes is just talk—so that we don't talk about how Lee DeWyze Mania isn't sweeping the nation? Or, about how the Idol tour is scrapping summer dates?

We ran this particular conspiracy theory by a PR guy who knows his Idol (he's a New York City-based publicist who blogs about the show), and he didn't buy it. "I would say no only because I'm seeing a lot of honest portrayals of how this past season is not selling," Michael J. Lamp told us.

For what it's worth, Lamp also doesn't think Idol is deliberately dragging out its search for a Cowell replacement. "If I had a really big judge's name to share," he said, "I'd do it now." 

Which brings us back to the "or what…?"

If Idol's not playing mind games, and it's not landing the likes of Timberlake, then what is it doing exactly?

Considering that Lythgoe's also on the record as being an Idol traditionalist, then just maybe the show's figuring out how to mess with success—without messing (too much) with success.

(Originally published July 28, 2010, at 6:20 p.m. PT)

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