"Idol" without Simon could prove turnoff: poll
By Jill Serjeant
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Fans of "American Idol" are as obsessed as ever after eight seasons of the TV talent show, but life without judge Simon Cowell could be a turn-off, according to a poll released on Monday.
New judge Kara DioGuardi gets a lukewarm rating in the AOL Television poll with 44 percent of the 233,795 votes cast judging her "awful" and 30 percent rating her "just ok."
And in a season that has seen speculation over the sexual orientation of finalist Adam Lambert, 59 percent of those polled said they would vote for an openly gay contestant.
Lambert, 27, a musical theater performer with a penchant for black nail polish, will face-off against guitar and piano playing college student Kris Allen, 23, on Tuesday in the race to be crowned "American Idol" and win a recording contract.
Lambert goes into the finale as the judges' clear favorite. But it's the votes of millions of viewers that will determine the winner and fans in the AOL poll had mixed feelings.
Lambert's performance of "Mad World" was rated the best this season. But 20 percent of those polled thought he was the most over-rated contestant this season, although the top votes in that category went to Lil Rounds.
Despite slipping audience ratings this year, "Idol" remains America's most-watched TV show with more than 26 million viewers on average per episode.
Some 70 percent of those polled said they found "Idol" as exciting as ever, with just 12 percent saying the show, which began in 2002, was getting old and 18 percent judging this season "boring".
But 49 percent said they would no longer watch if Cowell leaves the show, and 32 percent said it would depend who replaced him. The often scathing but influential British judge has recently expressed reservations about renewing his "Idol" contract when it ends in 2010.
"American Idol" has proved a successful launch pad for previous winners like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood.
But almost half of those questioned said winning barely mattered any more, pointing to the success of singers like Chris Daughtry and Jennifer Hudson who did not make the final but went on to make platinum-selling albums and in the case of Hudson, a Grammy award and an Oscar.
The two-part finale of "American Idol" will be broadcast on Fox television on Tuesday and Wednesday.