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Mariah Carey’s weak critiques blamed as ‘Idol’ ratings tumble

Singer Jennifer Lopez  attends Muhammad Ali's Celebrity Fight Night XIX JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort   SpMarch 23

Singer Jennifer Lopez attends Muhammad Ali's Celebrity Fight Night XIX at JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa on March 23, 2013 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by John Sciulli/Getty Images for Fight Night)

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Updated: May 26, 2013 6:03AM

There may be only a few weeks left in this 12th season of “American Idol,” but there’s no lack of behind-the-scenes drama as rumors fly about changes in the judging panel — even before this current season is over!

The latest discourse focuses on Mariah Carey and how her seeming inability to strongly critique contestants has frustrated both viewers and veteran “Idol” staffers. “While Mariah is a very different case, it is reminiscent of Ellen DeGeneres’ discomfort in playing the role of judge,” said an “Idol” insider.

The Hollywood Reporter reported that there was a move afoot to dump Carey and replace her in midseason with former judge Jennifer Lopez. The reason: slipping ratings for the musical competition show that long has ruled the roost in national TV ratings.

Last week’s ratings were at the lowest level since the show debuted in 2001.

My solid “Idol” sources scoff at stories suggesting a hasty shuffle. While we’ve seen judges come and go, the turnover always is tied to the launch of a new season. A spokeswoman for “Idol” also denied talk of a switch in the panel, calling it “just another ridiculous ‘Idol’ judge rumor, likely started by talks of Jennifer performing on the finale.”

While it’s not clear if J. Lo would be doing that, or even if she could be lured back to the judges panel for the 13th season, “Extra” did catch up with Carey’s husband, Nick Cannon, himself the host of “America’s Got Talent.”

Asked about his wife being dumped by “Idol,” Cannon said, “I haven’t heard that, but I think my wife is so focused on the future, what she is doing with her new album” — a comment fueling speculation that Carey herself may be inclined to exit “Idol” at the end of this season.

ONE OF THE GOOD GUYS: The legion of fans of popular singer Jimmy Damon will want to keep the seriously ill veteran entertainer in their thoughts and prayers.

GET IN STEP: Dolvett Quince, the “Biggest Loser” trainer, will be at the Stratford Square Mall in Bloomingdale from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Saturday. In town as part of National Dance Week celebrations, the well-known fitness trainer and TV personality will be greeting fans behind the mall’s Jolly Express Trackless Train.

On top of all that, organizers are planning a mall-wide flash-mob dance. To learn how to participate, go to

VITAL CAUSE: Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and Sox radio announcer Ed Farmer — a kidney recipient — plus Sox pitchers Matt Lindstrom and Nate Jones will team up twice on Friday to promote National Donate Life month.

The quartet first will be in the concourse of the James R. Thompson Center in the Loop noon to 1 p.m., registering people for the organ/tissue donor program, as well as signing autographs.

Later that evening, White will be at U.S. Cellular Field to throw out the first pitch at the Sox-Rays game, in honor of the cause.

The importance of this need is obvious: Approximately 5,000 people are on the organ donor waiting list in Illinois, and annually more than 300 people die waiting for a transplant.

ROYAL ROMP: There is something of a Chicago connection to a major event involving Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, the very pregnant mother of a future British king or queen. When Prince William’s wife christens the Royal Princess, the Princess Cruises’ newest ship June 13 in Southhampton, England, the event will be orchestrated by Mark Dow of the Chicago-based event marketing firm Under the Radar.

LONG ON HUMOR: Funnyman Martin Short will be front-and-center May 18 at the UIC Forum — headlining the Wish Ball, the annual fundraiser for Make-a-Wish Illinois, hosted by WLS-Channel 7’s Val Warner and Ryan Chiaverini.

ART SMART: Actress J ane Seymour — who long has also carved out a separate career as a painter and jewelry designer — will be coming to the Wentworth Gallery in the Woodfield Shopping Center in Schaumburg, presenting both her artwork and the photography created by her son, filmmaker and photographer Sean Flynn.

Seymour is scheduled to be on hand at the gallery from 7 to 9 p.m. May 31 and 5 to 8 p.m., June 1.

TALK, TALK, TALK: No doubt the conversation between Christie Hefner and Scott Turow will cover a wide range of topics when the Canyon Ranch Enterprises honcho and the attorney and best-selling author connect for a special event at the Dana Hotel May 20, sponsored by Chicago chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Hefner and Turow — longtime friends, as well as fellow members of the prestigious academic fraternity — will share their thoughts on the criminal justice system, politics, publishing and creativity.

Hefner, of course, was the former Playboy CEO, and Turow’s bestsellers include “Presumed Innocent” and “The Burden of Proof.”

SEEN ON THE SCENE: “Chicago Fire” star Taylor Kinney slipped into Gibsons on Rush for dinner on Tuesday night. … Tavi Gevinson — the teen fashionista blogger phenom already dubbed “the future of journalism” by Lady Gaga — celebrated her 17th birthday at Wicker Park’s Storefront Company after a screening of her film debut “Cadaver” at the MCA. … There was a bit of extra star power at the Tuesday performance of “Big Fish” at the Oriental Theatre as two of the Broadway-bound musical’s producers — Jimmy Buffett and Frank Marshall — checked on the show’s progress and hung out with stars Norbert Leo Butz, Kate Baldwin and Bobby Steggert. … Yes, that was Jacqueline Laurita of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” seen dining at ZED451 the other night. … In town for the “Rescue Our Angels” event with Jenny McCarthy at Studio Paris, Laurita also made the scene at the nearby Sub 51 nighclub.

Bill Zwecker reports regularly on “Good Day Chicago” and “Fox 32 News at 9” on WFLD-Channel 32.

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