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"American Idol" Spotlight All on Simon Cowell

"American Idol"'s ninth season finished up Thursday night and a winner was crowned.

But the show's main attraction wasn't the performances by the contestants -- it was the tribute the show paid to its departing judge, Simon Cowell.

Cowell told the crowd, "I didn't think I was going to be this emotional, and I genuinely am."

With 10 minutes left in the season finale, host Ryan Seacrest had to remind the audience a winner was being named.

The night was one to remember, with a parade of celebrities and past winners paying tribute to Cowell. Even former judge Paula Abdul returned.

Abdul told Cowell, "I've worked with a lot of people over the years, but none of them holds a candle to you."

This season "Idol" dropped nine percent in the ratings. Viewer voting for the winner was nearly cut in half with only 47 million in 2010, versus 88 million in 2009.

Critics wonder whether the show can survive without Cowell's biting persona.

Carita Rizzo, a contributing writer to TV Guide magazine, told CBS News, "Simon is 'American Idol.' (No one is sure) what's go happen to it."

This year, Cowell said he'd become bored.

Rumors of his possible replacements include some very big names, including Howard Stern, Jamie Foxx, Elton John and even Madonna.

Lee DeWyze was crowned this season's winner, but with Cowell moving to a new show, and a $100 million plus contract, he holds a more impressive title: the highest paid person on television.

"Early Show" Special Correspondent Amanda Holden, a judge on "Britain's Got Talent" and a friend of Cowell's, said he showed his soft side on Thursday night's broadcast.

Holden said the experience looked a lot like the scene at his 50th birthday party, when he gave a speech and was "definitely choking."

"He find those sort of moments that he had to go through on 'Idol' last night where everyone is telling him how marvelous he is - I know people think he loves that kind of thing - but he actually finds it incredibly embarrassing. So he would be a little bit embarrassed, a little bit grateful, but also, yeah, I think sad. He won't forget the opportunity of 'Idol' has given him so much more in his life. It's because of that show that he's been able to launch so many other shows and do so many other fantastic things."

"Early Show" co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez remarked Cowell said he was getting bored with the show. Could that be because Abdul left the show?

Holden said she and Abdul have a lot in common.

"We both have to be there for more than our opinion. We're there to be the sort of butt of jokes. ... If Simon's not having fun, he gets bored. And I think that's what happened with 'Idol,' even though they introduced Ellen, who is a comedian. I think a lot of the fun had gone out of the show for Simon. He needed someone to have a duel with every evening like he does with me and Piers (Morgan). … He has the attention span of a goldfish."

But who should replace Simon?

Of those being talked about, Holden said her choice is Howard Stern.

"You need somebody controversial. Somebody who's going to tell it like it is. He has a huge experience in the music industry from being a DJ for so long. I think he'd be a really good choice. Yes, you've got Madonna who's amazing. And Elton John who's revered as a fabulous artist, but I think Howard Stern would be the most controversial and therefore similar to Simon."

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