American Idol is finally back! And this year, once again, is advertised as better than all the others. It has auditions! And judging! And product placement! But the real draw? Simon Cowell, the alpha and omega of the show's success.

The initial success from Idol, and what made it stand out from all other contestant-driven reality shows, was Cowell. Sure, people appreciate Randy saying people were a little pitchy, and Paula's chewable morphine-induced ramblings, and that new chick's whatever she does; but everyone will always wait to hear Simon. He's the voice of reason, the patriarch of the unstoppable force of American Idol. It began with him, and it will most certainly end with him, at least in spirit. The speculation has already started as to who might replace him. And frankly, it's hard to think of anyone in television who could even come close to filling his shoes.

And yes, we haven't seen Ellen stroll onto the show in her 10-year-old boy outfit just yet. And she does have a huge following, and for good reason. She is phenomenal thinking on her feet, really accessible comedy-wise, and a good binder bringing all the judges together. But her schtick will eventually grow tired, and her lack of actual useful critique for the contestants will be glaring. Simon, with his smooth baby chest peaking over that black v-neck, is the only judge that is complete with insight, useful criticism, and wit.

Here is a perfect example of his value. Take out Simon Cowell's assessment of this singer. Would you remember the next day of what any of the other judges had to say?

His comments were inflammatory and mean spirited, but they were also witty, and most importantly correct.


Can Clay Aiken fill that seat? Paula Abdul? Andrew Lloyd Webber? The 1986 Mets? Who?!