TV

Simon's Farewell

Though ratings have been down for "American Idol" (Fox, 8 p.m.) all season, tonight's finale is significant since it's the last official appearance of Simon Cowell as a judge on the show.



No replacement has been named for him yet, but let's face it, no one can really step up and replace Simon. He's the most influential of the judges, the one who sets the standard. No one really cares about Randy's double-speak, Kara's inanities or Ellen's cheerleading.



The chemistry of the show slipped when Paula Abdul parted ways. She was far from the sharpest knife in the drawer, but her goofy personality was the perfect complement to Simon's acerbic wit.



"AI" has shown significant chinks in its armor this season. Though still No. 1 among the Nielsen shows, it's dropped about 10 percent of its ratings from last year. It doesn't help that this year's crop of would-be stars has been among the least inspiring of the show's history, according to most fans.



So, is "AI" done? Not necessarily, but it's days of ratings domination may be over real soon. No matter whom they get to replace Simon, it's not going to BE Simon. His replacement will either try to be the exact opposite of Simon, so as not to invite comparisons, or try to imitate him and come up short. (There is the possibility that the show doesn't replace Simon, and return to the three-judge format as well).



Meanwhile, Cowell will be launching his UK hit "X-Factor" for Fox, so I expect at least one "return" visit next season to plug that show and jack up "AI's" ratings.



WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Almost nada. If you aren't an "AI" fan, the only things on tonight that are new are the season finales of "Criminal Minds" and "CSI: NY" from 9-11 p.m.

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