Simon Cowell’s Exit Complicates ‘American Idol’ Outlook

At the end of an “American Idol” season called boring and absurd by critics, the departure of Simon Cowell from the judges’ table is likely to trump whatever decision the voters make about the final two singers, Crystal Bowersox and Lee DeWyze.

The show’s producers are making Mr. Cowell’s farewell a major part of Wednesday night’s finale at the Nokia Theater here. Paula Abdul and some former “Idol” winners are expected to be there.

Mr. Cowell’s exit is the biggest material change in the eight-year history of the show. Many people credit him — a caustic, cocky judge — with making “Idol” into America’s most popular reality show and a profit center for the Fox network, and some critics are questioning how compelling the show will be without him.

In the shortcut to the American dream that is “Idol,” Mr. Cowell has been the gatekeeper.

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