Ellen DeGeneres gestures before the "Idol Gives Back" show at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, April 25, 2007.
The stunning choice of comedian and chat show host Ellen DeGeneres as the new judge on TV show "American Idol" appeared set to revive interest in the top-rated talent show after three years of falling ratings.
DeGeneres, one of the most popular TV chat show hosts in the United States, will replace Paula Abdul in the four-person panel when the competition returns for a ninth season in January on the Fox network.
DeGeneres, who has no musical background but says she is an avid fan of the show, told "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest on Thursday that she would be the people's voice on the panel.
"I'm just a fan like everyone else," she told Seacrest in an interview on his Los Angeles morning radio show. "The people choose. Ultimately it comes down to them, not some executive in the music industry. I hope to be that voice."
Mike Darnell, president of alternative entertainment for Fox, said producers felt that "her vast entertainment experience -- combined with her quick wit and passion for music -- will add a fresh new energy to the show."
The move, just five weeks after the volatile Abdul quit abruptly after failing to get a big pay raise, sent shockwaves through fans and media watchers.
"My first reaction was: surprise, bogglement and skepticism," wrote Time magazine's TV correspondent James Poniewozik. "Which honestly, probably means that it's an excellent choice, at least from the standpoint of getting viewers."