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Should 'American Idol' keep this season's judges panel intact?

April 26, 2011 | 12:33 pm

IDOL_Judge2 Being a judge on "American Idol" may seem like a pretty cushy job, but for former "Idol" judge Kara DioGuardi, sitting at that table was "torture."

"As far as I'm concerned, 'American Idol' Season 8 might as well have been called 'Survivor,'" she writes of her first season on the show in her new book, "A Helluva High Note: Surviving Life, Love and 'American Idol.'" "Every moment was mentally, physically and emotionally challenging. Every old fear or insecurity about the way I looked, what I said and who I was leaped to the forefront of my mind before each show. ... It was torture."

Though DioGuardi told Matt Lauer on "Today" Tuesday that she now has "nothing but love" for the show, for a while there, she admitted, she felt like she'd been "thrust into the homes of millions of people" and was ill prepared to handle the pressures of the job. What's more, she said, because the "Idol" producers didn't do a good job explaining to viewers why she was suddenly being plunked down in the middle of a judging panel -– then Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul -– that had an existing chemistry, "Idol" fans didn't exactly embrace her.

"It was like I broke up the Beatles," DioGuardi told Lauer.

Speaking of judging panels, chemistry and breakups, there's been some fearful chatter recently about whether the current "Idol" panel -– Jackson, Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez -– will stay intact next season. Tyler has signed on for more than one season, reports, and Jackson doesn't show any sign of leaving. But Lopez, who reportedly signed a contract committing her only to the current season, is shopping around a new reality talent show with her husband, Marc Anthony, in which the couple will travel around Latin America looking for heretofore-unknown musical talent.

Will it prevent her from returning to "Idol" next year?

Given that Lopez's and Antony's new show -– working title: "Que Viva" -– is, according to EW, being undertaken in conjunction with "Idol" producer Simon Fuller and XIX Entertainment, and that Jackson has been able to work on other reality TV projects (MTV's "America's Best Dance Crew") while continuing to pass judgment on "Idol," it's probably safe to say that Lopez could return if she wanted to.

Does she?

"I don't know if I will do another season," she recently told Showbiz Spy. "I'm taking it day by day at the moment and we'll see what happens."

She did tell Ryan Seacrest, however, that she's "open" to the possibility of an "Idol" return.

What do you think? Are you loving the judges' chemistry this season? Would you like to see Jackson, Tyler and Lopez all return next year? Or would you rather see the "Idol" producers shake up the mix a little bit? Do we need more mean (a la Cowell)? Or are you loving the new nice? Curious to hear your thoughts.

Full Show Tracker coverage of "American Idol"

-- Amy Reiter

Photo: Left to right, "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest and judges Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson. Credit: Tony Duran / Fox