Jennifer Lopez

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Jennifer Lopez couldn't be leaving American Idol at a better time.

At a better time.

And, no, not because a Mariah Carey is waiting in the wings.


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If Lopez exits Idol, as E! News reported Wednesday she will, then Idol has a chance to be Idol again.

That would be the show that didn't need a velvet rope around the judges' table.

With The X Factor landing Britney Spears and Demi Lovato, the pressure will be on Idol to keep up with the divas. But Idol went there with Lopez and Steven Tyler and before them, Ellen DeGeneres. The show won in the TV ratings, which is the point, but lost some of its mojo, which is not beside the point.

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Idol ruled, and continues to rule, because more than any other TV competition, it makes, not relies on, stars.

The household names produced by Idol are legion. But for all the Kelly Clarksons and Carrie Underwoods, the show's biggest creation has been Simon Cowell.

Would the Cowell of 2002, the anonymous music insider, get the call to replace Lopez in 2012?

He would if Idol renounces the reality-TV arms race.

He would if Idol recognizes that The Voice's biggest talking point has come from its once-least-well-known name, Blake Shelton.

He would if Idol sees Howard Stern as powerless to stop America's Got Talent's early-season viewer defections.

He would if Idol realizes that Kara DioGuardi was the right idea, if at the wrong, too-crowded time.

Lopez's departure is Idol's chance—its chance to go back, and make another star.

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