American Idol Returns Tonight!

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Photo: Courtesy of Microsoft Excel 2008

It's back! Last season, American Idol producers plucked angel-voiced Utah singer David Archuleta from another batch of screeching Sanjayas — will they ever be so lucky again? Probably not! But because Fox's advertisers would still like them to try, the show returns for an eighth season tonight. Today's Times outlines the bold changes they're making this time in order to avoid the mistakes of the recent past.

Most obviously, Idol will add a fourth judge, songwriter Kara DioGuardi, who sounds like a slightly meaner, less out-of-it Paula ("I would always tell [contestants]: 'Look, you’re on thin ice here. If you don’t get it together, it’s not going to work out for you'"). Also, instead of opening with four weeks of awful auditions, this season will feature only three. But that's not to say there won't be terribleness, promises executive Idol producer Ken Warwick, who sounds blissfully unconcerned about ratings in American territories overseas: "There are places that we went to — you know, to Puerto Rico — and the majority of them weren’t very good at all."

For ‘Idol,’ More Hope and Less Humiliation [NYT]