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The Rise and Fall of the Mean British Judge

09/24/2010 01:38 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

When the 10th season of American Idol begins in January, it will be for the first time it comes without a British accent.

It's been known for nine months that Simon Cowell will be leaving the program. But as the distinctively blunt, acerbic and most opinionated judge on the panel, he was also the show's star from the beginning, lending a snooty condescending sneer that so well framed by his UK accent from Brighton by way of Hertfordshire.

Cowell certainly seemed to set the standard for reality judges on American TV competitions, as each show scrambled to get its own mean British judge.

On So You Think You Can Dance, it's been Nigel Lythgoe, himself an on and off executive producer of Idol (he's back on now). So You Think You Can Dance is also served by a secondary English accent in host Cat Deeley.

On America's Got Talent, a show produced by Cowell, the mean British judge has been played to perfection by Piers Morgan, who has parlayed his U.S. fame to become the successor to Larry King on CNN. If you add Sharon Osbourne to the list, the mainstays on the America's Got Talent panel has had a British accent advantage of 2-1 in each of its seasons.

On the just-returning Dancing with the Stars, the grumpy British judge has been Len Goodman. And on the just finished Masterchef, Gordon Ramsay headed the three-chef panel of judges; he was back for another season of Hell's Kitchen Wednesday.

The announcement of the new panel of American Idol judges Wednesday was anticipated for months with Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler joining the lone holdover Randy Jackson (but none were planning to play the role of a mean judge, they said at a press conference Wednesday).

But it's a little bit of a jolt that there will be no dose of the UK from anywhere but behind the scenes on Idol come January.

Not that the new judges come without any accent whatsoever: Tyler can rock the Boston accent; and Jenny from the Block can revert to the Bronx as needed.