American Idol: OG Judge Paula Abdul Replacing COVID-Stricken Luke Bryan

Luke Bryan COVID American Idol

It’s about to look a lot like 2002 behind American Idol‘s judging dais.

Original Idol judge Paula Abdul will return to the singing competition for tonight’s live broadcast (ABC, 8/7c), replacing Luke Bryan after he tested positive for the coronavirus.

“I’m sad to say I won’t be a part of tonight’s first live @AmericanIdol show. I tested positive for COVID but I’m doing well and look forward to being back at it soon,” Bryan shared in a tweet on Monday, prompting Abdul to respond, “We’ll miss you tonight @LukeBryanOnline!!  Thank you for trusting me with your judge’s seat!!”

Abdul of course was a part of Idol‘s OG panel of judges, sitting alongside music executive Simon Cowell and record producer/music manager Randy Jackson. Abdul exited the Fox hit ahead of its ninth season — at which time it was still drawing well north of 20 million viewers — after reportedly asking for (but failing to get) as much as $20 million a year to stay with the show. (She was ultimately replaced by talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who would only last one season.)

Since leaving Idol, Abdul has served as a judge on other reality competitions, including Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance and recent Masked Singer spinoff The Masked Dancer.

Tonight’s episode of Idol will unveil the season’s Top 12, one night after the Top 16 was announced; get those full results here. As previously reported, the series will welcome back 10 finalists from Season 18, which aired last spring, for the chance to earn a spot in Season 19’s Top 10.

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