NEW YORK – Former “Fly Girl” Jennifer Lopez is poised to return to television — this time as a judge on “American Idol.”

The singer-dancer-actor was close to signing a deal to join Fox TV’s hit singing contest, a person familiar with the negotiations said late Thursday.

The “American Idol” opening for Lopez comes with comedian-talk show host Ellen DeGeneres’ departure from the show. Degeneres announced Thursday she was leaving after one year as judge.

“A couple months ago, I let Fox and the ‘American Idol’ producers know that this didn’t feel like the right fit for me,” DeGeneres said in a statement. DeGeneres said she realized that while she “loved discovering, supporting and nurturing young talent, it was hard for me to judge people and sometimes hurt their feelings.”

In May, Simon Cowell exited after nine seasons to start a new talent show for Fox. Those under consideration for his spot, according to reports, are a varied group that includes Steven Tyler and Harry Connick Jr.

Lopez’ films include “Selena,” “The Wedding Planner” and most recently “The Back-Up Plan.” She has appeared as a mentor on “American Idol.”

She was part of the “Fly Girl” house dancers on the comedy show “In Living Color” in 1990 before becoming a backup dancer for Janet Jackson.

Lopez’s first album, “On the 6,” came out in 1999, launching a career in pop, Latin, hip-hop and R&B.

Griffith pitches health care law to seniors

WASHINGTON – Actor Andy Griffith has a new role: pitching President Obama’s health care law to seniors in a cable television ad paid for by Medicare. Griffith is 84.

The TV star — whose role as sheriff of Mayberry made him an enduring symbol of small-town American values — tells seniors that “good things are coming” under the health care overhaul, including free preventive checkups and lower-cost prescriptions for Medicare recipients.

Polls show that seniors are more skeptical of the health care law than younger people because Medicare cuts provide much of the financing to expand coverage for the uninsured.

Branagh takes on new role with superhero film

SAN DIEGO – Kenneth Branagh is directing “Thor” for Marvel Studios, and some think it’s a stretch for him to take on a superhero movie. He’s more Shakespearean, having adapted several of the Bard’s films for the big screen.

But the 49-year-old actor-director says Shakespeare’s characters aren’t unlike today’s superheroes.

Shakespeare wrote about “Henry V” centuries after his reign, and turned the king into a sort of superhero who could do no wrong, Branagh says.

“We know that we’re interested in superheroes, kings, gods, because of their sort of human-like failings. So it seemed to me not as much of a stretch as some people might think,” Branagh said at last week’s Comic-Con, where he presented footage from the film.

“The stretch part of it is embracing the whole world of digital effects. That’s been something I’ve just loved because it’s — if you can think it, they can do it. And that’s exciting.”

Natalie Portman, a star of “Thor,” said the story is perfect for Branagh to handle.

“Ken is very aware of epic stories and, you know, these sort of mythological family structures that are at the base of all the classic texts,” she said. “And the fact that this is classic mythology even though it is a superhero and a comic book movie, it was really a perfect fit.”

“Thor” also stars Chris Hemsworth, Kat Dennings and Anthony Hopkins. It’s set for release next year.