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Who should replace Cowell, Carrell and King?

Dale Roe
Imagine Neil Patrick Harris taking over the Simon Cowell spot in 'American Idol.' Harris does have live experience as Tony Awards host.

Send in the replacements.

Recently, a trio of television personalities announced that they're quitting their gigs (we'll ignore Alec Baldwin, who seems to announce every year his impending exodus from "30 Rock"). Simon Cowell, Steve Carell and Larry King, it seems, all have better things to do. For each departure, I've included a list of rumored replacements, the person I think is the best (if not entirely most likely) replacement and one possibility that's downright crazy and probably ill-advised. If you've got ideas of your own, share them with your fellow readers and me at www.austin360.com/tvblog.

Simon Cowell, ‘American Idol'

British Cowell is "American" history. The acerbic judge — often the most (and occasionally, only) entertaining part of the Fox network's reality music competition — has called it quits, heading for the presumably greener pastures of a new TV talent show, "The X Factor."

Since the announcement of his departure, rumors and suggestions have been swirling regarding Cowell's replacement. "Idol" is at a crossroads: It's still beating everything else out there, but the program showed ratings vulnerability for the first time last season, and expectations are going to be high for the new Simon. Who it will be is anybody's guess, but I think the worst mistake the show's producers could make at this crucial juncture would be to install a Simon clone.

  • Rumored replacements: Bret Michaels, former Poison front man; Howard Stern, satellite radio shock jock; Dolly Parton, recording artist and actress; Ian Dickson, judge on "Australian Idol"; Neil Patrick Harris, actor and former Tony Awards host; Gene Simmons, reality star and member of KISS; Piers Morgan, "America's Got Talent" judge; Paula Abdul, former "American Idol" judge.
  • Best choice: Harris. As guest judge last season, he showed that he displays the best traits of all the other judges. He can be brutally frank like Simon and as funny as Ellen DeGeneres aspires to be. He's far more talented than Kara DioGuardi and as relatable as Randy Jackson. He even has a bit of late, lamented judge Abdul's loopy unpredictability. He can sing and dance, and he has tons of stage presence and charisma. If star quality can be taught, Harris is the guy to do it.
  • It'll never happen: You thought Simon was scary and over the top? Try Mel Gibson. But first we have to get him comfortable with expressing his opinions. And it's probably best if Mad Max stays down at Simon's end of the table, away from Randy Jackson and Ellen DeGeneres; I'm just saying. On second thought, this is just a bad idea all-around; nobody wants to see Gibson taking out his rage on youngsters. Let's go with Alec Baldwin.

Steve Carell, ‘The Office'

Michael Scott is leaving, and this time (thankfully) it's not to start his own paper company in the next cubicle. Carell has announced that the seventh season of the NBC comedy will be his last, and he's made it clear that this isn't a negotiating ploy.

"The Office," appointment television in the not-too-distant past, has seemed a bit desperate for some time, and I think much of the fault lies with Carell (admit it — a little of him goes a long way). So, though his departure creates an opportunity for the sitcom's reinvention, the biggest question might be "why bother?"

  • Rumored replacements: Carell's castmates Rainn Wilson (Dwight) and Craig Robinson (Darryl); Ricky Gervais, boss David Brent on the original U.K. version of the show; Amy Sedaris, actress and author; Andy Richter, Conan O'Brien's sidekick; Michael Emerson, Ben on "Lost"; David Hasselhoff, "Baywatch" icon.
  • Best choice: Gervais. Having his David Brent transfer to the Scranton branch would be brilliant in so many meta- and non-meta ways. And it would give the actor a limited (face it, "The Office" is lucky it's getting another full season) and sure-fire way to get his foot into U.S. series television. I'm not sure that's where Gervais wants his foot, but that's where I want it. It's arguably the funniest British foot since that animated one in the opening credits of "Monty Python's Flying Circus."
  • It'll never happen: Nobody. Board it up. If a Carell-heavy office isn't funny, the prospect of Dwight or another employee in charge makes me cringe, and not in the good way that the best of the show's episodes have. But I suspect NBC is going to run this show straight into the ground, so give me Donald Trump, as himself, buying the company and moving in. One by one, he can tell the employees "you're fired," and then close up shop at the end of the season. You're welcome, NBC.

Larry King, ‘Larry King Live'

"Retirement ... hellooooooo!" Yes, King announced in June that he would be leaving his CNN show. Yes, King still has a CNN show. The popular joke is that the oft-divorced host is leaving to spend more time with his families. In spite of notable media moments (Ross Perot announced his presidential candidacy on King's talker in 1992), it doesn't seem as if it much matters who replaces the largely irrelevant Peabody Award-winner until you realize that the decision could give his tightrope-walking cable network a chance to either confirm its reputation as a centrist news source or redefine itself in the direction of left-leaning MSNBC or right-leaning Fox News. Either way, let's hope we get somebody in that chair who will avoid tossing softballs like King has done for ages.

  • Rumored replacements: Piers Morgan, "America's Got Talent" judge (who is rumored to have the gig all but wrapped up); Ryan Seacrest, radio personality and "American Idol" host; Katie Couric, "CBS Evening News" anchor; Joy Behar, comedian, author, talk show host and panelist on "The View"; Anderson Cooper, CNN personality; Keith Olbermann, MSNBC pundit; Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show"; John King, CNN anchor; Regis Philbin, talk show host.
  • Best choice: Stewart. He asks his guests — many of them politicians and newsmakers — tougher and better questions than the actual TV journos he apes. It would give ratings-challenged CNN renewed vigor in the late-night fight and the venue change would give Stewart instant credibility, especially if he didn't change a thing he's already doing. Come on, Jon ... you know you secretly want to be a real news guy.
  • It'll never happen: Norm MacDonald. He hasn't worked steadily in years, and his King impersonation on "Saturday Night Live" never failed to make me laugh. It'd be like "The Colbert Report," if Stephen Colbert were a real pundit and an actor was portraying him. OK, now my head's starting to hurt, but you get the point: Let's have Norm MacDonald replace Larry King as Larry King. He already has the suspenders.

Nobody knows what's going to happen to these three open slots, but if any of these suggested or rumored parties are interested, they ought to stake a claim, and fast ... the way his ratings are going, Jay Leno could decide to swoop in and take over any one of these gigs at any moment.