Who Should Replace Simon Cowell on American Idol?

Simon Cowell will allegedly be leaving American Idol next season, and the New York Post is reporting that the frontrunner to replace him is the “King of All Media” Howard Stern, whose contract with Sirius XM Satellite Radio expires in January.

I think Stern would certainly attract a big audience and he fits in perfectly with Cowell’s “love to hate him” style of criticism. He will no doubt cause headline-grabbing controversy more than Simon Cowell ever did.  But here are some others I hope they consider to be the next permanent judge on the popular singing competition.

Conan O’BrienThe man needs a job and the timing should be just about right. FOX is already apparently wooing him for a possible late night talk show on the network. Why can’t he do both? He is a hard worker and I’m sure would add a lot to the program. One big negative is that with Ellen Degeneres already on the slate as one of the judges, the producers might be looking for a more edgy person to mirror Cowell’s sharp barbs rather than just a person who can crack jokes. Conan has more of a nice guy image, but if he can recapture some of the great, sharp-edged humor he displayed in his jokes against NBC during his final weeks on The Tonight Show, I think he would be a great choice.

Gene Simmons – When Paula Abdul left American Idol, I recommended KISS rocker Gene Simmons as the replacement. One negative at the time was that Simmons might be too much like Cowell. Well, now I think the producers want someone with that no-holds-barred personality, and Gene Simmons fits the bill.

Sharon Osbourne – She has proven to be a very entertaining and intelligent judge on America’s Got Talent. I think she would fill Simon Cowell’s shoes very nicely.

Neil Patrick Harris – He’s come a long way since Doogie Howser MD. The guy has brilliant comic timing, he’s a great showman, and he proved as a guest judge that he can do the job.

Axl Rose – Has he released his long-gestating Guns ‘n Roses album, Chinese Democracy, yet? No? Well, offer him this gig. I think he would bring a lot of great things to the table -- a little bit of Simon, a little bit of Paula, and a whole lot of crazy.

William Shatner – His music background is legendary. Have you heard his renditions of “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” or “Mr. Tambourine Man”? Have you seen his excellent interview series Raw Nerve? He is an icon and would surprise all the non-believers.

Those are my top contenders. What are your picks?