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Will Paula's absence hurt Idol'?

OK, she was a bit of a loon. The butt of oh so many jokes. A soap opera unto herself. A murderer of the English language.

But oh, how we loved our sweet and sensitive Paula Abdul.

And now that she has bolted "American Idol," television's most popular show just won't be the same.

Paula announced via Twitter Tuesday night that she's decided to leave "Idol."

"I'll miss nurturing all the new talent, but most of all being a part of a show that I helped from day 1 become an international phenomenon," she posted.

Paula's decision to leave could be a monumental blunder for her and the show. What will she do now that she has left the "Idol" cocoon that nurtured her like she nurtured the contestants? What can she do?

On the other hand, the show has suffered a major loss. Yes, it was easy to dismiss Paula's sugary critiques as lightweight and flimsy. But she was a key component to the "Idol" mix.

She was the cheerleader — the lovey-dovey den mother who helped to offset Simon Cowell's nastiness and mend the battered psyches left in his wake. Essential? Absolutely. All snark and no warmth makes for a dull show.

She also lent an air of unpredictability to a sometimes highly predictable show. You never exactly knew what Paula was going to say, or what she would wear. You never knew when she would burst into tears, or go bonkers. You also never knew when she would deliver a truly insightful appraisal, something she managed to do with more frequency this past season.

Besides all that, her interplay with Simon provided solid-gold comic relief. Their spirited sparring matches and flirtatious schtick have been woven into "Idol" lore. Note that how, even after Kara DioGuardi joined the panel, the producers still kept Paula and Simon seated together, joined at the hip.

And speaking of DioGuardi, the woman who was brought in to freshen the show didn't really add much. Most fans we've talked to never warmed up to her. They'll have an even tougher time accepting her now that she'll be seen — fairly or not — as the "All About Eve"-ish diva who replaced Paula.

No, the "Idol" producers can go ahead and tie their hopes to DioGuardi or someone else. But it's Paula who will forever be our girl.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.