ABC put Miller in the booth to liven up the sometimes technical process of game strategy -- the Xs and Os of the NFL game. Miller had a casual knowledge of football. But his biggest asset came from those quippy, fast-entertaining-on-the-moment remarks.
Likewise, DeGeneres won't unleash the skilled expertise of a Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, or Kara DioGuardi. Recently, as a judge on Fox's summer show "So You Think You Can Dance," DeGeneres provided just this sort of stuff -- some would say fluff.
I'm guessing that's exactly why the "Idol" producers chose her.
Last year, critics were tough on "Idol" not because of new judge DioGuardi, but becauset the entire production seemed like stuffing six pounds of potatoes into a five-pound bag.
Judges' comments were squeezed into the singer intros, behind-the-scenes pieces and special mentors' segments, as well as the actual performances themselves.
In previous years, Paula Abdul's critiques and musings sometimes seemed entertaining and twisty. Last year she was more direct -- perhaps because of the added judge or the fact that she had less actual time to speak -- which made her more predictable. Even Cowell noted Abdul was a bit less entertaining because of the new format.
Now comes DeGeneres, which would seem to upset the flow again: a fast-wit comedian who could easily upstage other judges.
What remains is a math problem: four judges with less time to speak. What do viewers really want anyway? Beautiful soaring vocals or more of Simon's too-blunt reviews?
One thing's for sure: DeGeneres has great people handing her. Her syndicated show has already been parleyed into a deal with American Express. More recently she's struck a deal with Cover Girl as a spokesmodel, and got the special guest gig on "So You Think You Can Dance?"
Now she's on the biggest show on TV. But like Dennis Miller, it's about meshing, it's about teamwork. Hopefully she won't fumble -- or hit a sour note.