Paula Abdul is busy planning her future — and right now, Fox’s “American Idol” is not a part of it.
In his first interview since Abdul tweeted her exit on Aug. 4, her manager David Sonenberg threw cold water on rampant rumors that Abdul and her former bosses had begun talking again. He also teased that “soon” Abdul’s fans will know what her post-Idol plans are.
Sonenberg said that there have been “no discussions whatsoever about ‘Idol,’ ” and added that while he would “never count anything out,” Abdul’s priorities are elsewhere.
Abdul, you see, is busy talking to everyone else. Since abdicating her seat on the judges panel, the job offers have been coming her way at a fast and furious rate, Sonenberg said, in part, because she “is the kind of person who is pulling for you.”
“You can always tell when someone is really interested in you and not just going through the motions,” he added. “That’s clear with Paula. She’s the kind of person who could be your best friend and mentor because she truly cares… When you look at the ‘Idol’ situation, it was clear she cared about those kids, it was clear she wanted them to feel safe.”
Sometimes the fevered interest in all things Abdul has been a detriment: A possible guest starring role on “Ugly Betty” was scrapped when the story was leaked to the media before a deal was sealed. There was also talk that she might participate as a contestant in “Dancing With the Stars,” but that didn’t happen either.
Something else that hasn’t happened: Radaronline.com’s report Tuesday night that Fox had not closed its doors to the possibility of Abdul’s return just yet. According to their sources, the network is polling focus groups to see if viewers were happy with any of the celebrities currently guest judging the “Idol” audition rounds – Mary J. Blige and Victoria Beckham have already completed their stints – as a possible replacement for Abdul. Additionally, MSNBC.com said Fox and Paula were still “in talks” to make a return possible.
But insiders deny the focus group story. And Sonenberg and several sources close to the show say no new talks have begun.
“She loves ‘Idol.’ She feels she was a large part of the reason it is what it is,” he said. “I can tell you her focus right now is speaking to all the other networks. The only one we haven’t talked to, because of recent events, is Fox.
“But perhaps we would be speaking to Fox about shows in the near future.”
Nigel Lythgoe, who executive produces Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” and was previously a producer on “Idol,” told reporters that he’d love to have Abdul be a guest judge on “Dance.” But Sonenberg said, while Abdul is flattered, she’s not considering the offer at the moment.
“She feels fabulous. She feels free,” he continued. “I think in some ways she was typecast in ‘Idol’ and she was kind of restricted from doing anything she wanted to do and now she’s free to decide. She really is very excited about the future and that there’s support for her.”
Those interested in working in the Paula biz include all of the other major networks, some independent cable channels, major corporations and financiers and live entertainment businesses. She’s also received offers about possible book deals, clothing lines and cosmetics brands, Sonenberg said.
Still, getting another TV project – or two – appears to be the priority. “She loves television. She has a number of exciting ideas, some of which are competitive, some of which are just theme-oriented,” Sonenberg said. “I think you’re going to be seeing a lot of Paula, sometimes as an executive producer, sometimes as a performer or mentor and sometimes as a creative developer.”
On the outside chance, however, Abdul and Fox do find their way back to each other, they’ve got plenty of time to do so. “American Idol” does not start the live tapings until February, so in theory, Abdul has plenty of time to join Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and
Kara DioGuardi on the panel. “It’s clear she’s got an enormous number of fans – people want her to be on [‘Idol’], or any other show. She’s got to deliver the goods, but assuming she does, she’s got an audience who’s prepared to listen.”