IS PAULA IRREPLACEABLE?

Paula Abdul decided to quit American Idol after receiving a final offer from the two companies that produce the show of $5 million a year -- more than twice her current salary but half what Idol host Ryan Seacrest received just recently, the New York Times reported today (Thursday) (Seacrest received another $15 million over three years for related deals.) "It remains to be seen whether Ms. Abdul was in fact the glue that held "Idol" together or just another disposable cog in a show that has been a huge success around the world with countless other judges," the Times commented in its report. Although producers declined to be interviewed on Wednesday, the newspaper and other publications quoted Nigel Lythgoe, who exec produced Idol for the first seven seasons, as saying that while Abdul was an important contributor, the show "is bigger than any one person." He pointed out that versions of the show all over the world have been successful "with all different judges."

JON AND KATE PLUS .... HOW MANY VIEWERS?

Viewers appear to breaking up with Jon and Kate Plus Eight or, at the very least, undergoing a "trial separation," Advertising Age commented on Wednesday, pointing out that the show's ratings have dropped from a 4.9/14 among 18-49-year-old viewers for the break-up episode last June to a 1.8/5 for the first half hour on Monday and a 1.9/5 for the second. The show's "gender gap," the trade publication noted, "is really a gulf, as the male/female split was 25/75" percent.

CLINTON RESCUES TV JOURNALISTS FROM NORTH KOREAN PRISON

The two TV journalists who were rescued from a North Korean prison by Bill Clinton expressed gratitude to the former president upon their arrival in California on Wednesday. "We feared at any moment that we could be sent to a hard labor camp, and then suddenly we were told we were going to a meeting," a tearful Laura Ling told a news conference at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, CA after arriving home with Clinton. He had reportedly acted after receiving appeals from the families of Ling and her colleague, Euna Lee. According to the Washington Post, Clinton's trip was paid for by "wealthy business people," and the only taxpayer money used went to pay the salaries of the Secret Service agents who normally travel with Clinton. Sow Chemical provided the plane Clinton flew from his home in New York to Burbank. Movie producer Steve Bing provided another plane that flew him to Korea and paid for other costs, including about $15,000 for use of a satellite phone. Clinton was accompanied by a team that included John Podesta, his former chief of staff and a former State Department expert on North Korea. Former Vice President Al Gore, a co-owner of Current TV, the channel the two women were working for, praised Bing's efforts on Wednesday.

LENO: "I'M NOT HERE TO SAVE NBC"

Jay Leno won't be trying to replicate the Tonight show when his nightly variety show begins airing next month, he told the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena Wednesday. Most obvious: his desk will be gone. And there'll be a news element -- with Brian Williams appearing regularly from New York. And unlike the Tonight show, which front-ended its best stuff, the Jay Leno Show will pick up speed as it heads towards 11:00 and the local stations' bread-and-butter newscast, followed by the Conan O'Brien-hosted Tonight show, Leno promised. Asked by a critic whether he is concerned about the fact that his NBC lead-in shows may be unhelpful, given NBC's last-place standing in the ratings, Leno replied, "I'm not counted on to save the network. The network's on its own." Leno waited for the laughter, then, with signature perfect timing, remarked, "Screw them! I'm not here to save them."

NOW IT'S O'REILLY'S TURN TO END THE "TRUCE"

The truce has ended. If there ever was one. The New York Times reported over the weekend that lieutenants representing News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch and GE Chairman Jeffrey Immelt had put the kibosh on the on-air feud between Fox News's Bill O'Reilly and MSNBC's Keith Olbermann. On Monday, Olbermann insisted that he had not been a party to such a truce and lashed out at O'Reilly and Murdoch. On Wednesday O'Reilly resumed his attack on General Electric, the company that owns Olbermann's cable network (as well as NBC and Universal Pictures). He accused it of polluting the Hudson River and imposing its corporate influence on NBC News.