Ellen DeGeneres won’t return to American Idol as a judge next season, she announced Thursday night.

DeGeneres came on board as a “replacement” for Paula Abdul, although it was generally acknowledged she was added to the lineup to provide continuity once Simon Cowell, the tart-tongued judge who, let’s face it, made the show a hit in the first place, left at the end of last season. DeGeneres admitted her contract allowed her to have a say in who would replace Cowell. No replacement for him has been named yet, and nationwide auditions are set to begin next month.

DeGeneres cited how hard it is to be mean as a reason for her departure, but the show is undergoing other shakeups. In addition to Cowell’s departure, this season was generally seen as one of the weakest, with talented but lackluster singers, too much chatter from four judges (instead of three) and declining ratings (though it’s still a mammoth hit). Nigel Lythgoe, who executive-produced American Idol before leaving a few years ago to run So You Think You Can Dance, has been brought back on board. He reportedly dislikes the four-judge panel

Ominously, he seemed to like Randy Jackson, who is embarrassingly banal deadweight whose critiques are repetitive and childish. At least Paula was watchable, like a train wreck. Kara DioGuardi is more flotsam.