Ellen DeGeneres

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Simon Cowell should be proud. Jennifer Lopez should be taking notes.

The message of American Idol is: know who you are. If you're a country singer, sing country. If you're Michael Bublé, don't do Coldplay like Coldplay would do Coldplay. 

In subtracting herself from Idol, Ellen DeGeneres proved she knows who she is—and, more important, what she was at the judges' table.




As DeGeneres said in her exit statement last night, the chair in front of the stage "didn't feel like the right fit."

It wasn't.

We hate the word—or is it the sound?—"meh." After "Who cares?," it is the Internet age's most annoying, maddening comeback. So know that we don't drop this adjective lightly, but on Idol, DeGeneres was meh.

It's not that she wasn't funny, or that she wasn't clever, or that she wasn't helpful. It's that she wasn't any of those things in sufficient quantity to rise above meh.

DeGeneres is the best advocate a kid who sings Lady Gaga can have. She's the best 21st century Oscar emcee this side of Hugh Jackman. She was the absolute best choice to take the jitters out of the post-9/11 Emmys.

She is not meh.

Except on Idol. Where she either didn't have the time, format, or, no, the singular Paula Abdul talent to describe the color of a person's voice memorabily, goofily and, at the same time, correctly.

The most dead-on thing about DeGeneres' Idol career is her departure. With her comic's sense of timing intact, she nailed it. And we admire her all that much more for it.

If only the Idol hopefuls knew themselves so well. The show, which, beyond all the hand-wringing about which judges are in and which judges are out, is about the singers, would be better for it.

Then the show, like DeGeneres, would never again be meh. 

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