mariah carey & american idol*What was once one of television’s most desirable spots – a seat behind the table and red Coca-Cola glasses on American Idol – has somehow become completely radioactive.

At one point, the chair was more coveted and fought over than the throne on Game of Thrones; now, it discards judges after each season in a Law and Order-type frenzy. The classic lineup of Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul hasn’t been together since 2009. Love them or hate them, whatever they had worked; since then, their replacements have run the gamut from capable (Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez) to bland (Kara DioGuardi) to disastrous (Ellen DeGeneres).

It’s probably right to think that American Idol is at a genuine crossroads in its history. The Voice seems to have gained a lot of the fun from Idol’s earlier seasons, with an interesting format (that doesn’t seem to go stale) and a genuinely captivating panel of judges – the slightly daffy Christina Aguilera, huggable Cee-Lo, down-home country Blake Shelton and heartthrob Adam Levine. It seems fresh and vital where Idol is old hat.

So how does Idol get back on top? Well, it all starts with the judges – and there’s certainly no shortage of contenders. There’s an extraordinary cast of characters who have been rumored (or actually vocalized) their interest in joining the show, including Charlie Sheen, Adam Lambert and the greatest singer of all, Aretha Franklin. Mariah Carey is one star who has been the subject of a lot of buzz, while this list even suggests names like Weird Al Yankovic, Paris Hilton and Russell Simmons.

Of all the names mentioned, Carey might prove to be the best fit on the panel. She’d certainly be the most talented female to ever sit behind the desk, and she’s got that little piece of craziness in her that made Paula Abdul so entertaining when she sat behind the desk. After that – and providing that Randy Jackson leaves, as rumored – Russell Simmons would provide a much-needed dash of music industry-insider, and having an alum like Lambert on the panel would certainly give a different perspective to the judging. There we go. Carey, Simmons and Lambert, a new wonder trio to bring Idol back to the top – no swiveling chairs needed.