American Idol Season 10 Premiere Recap: These Kids Are All Right!

If you’ve turned on a television since the end of the Holiday Eating Season, chances are you’ve seen Jennifer Hudson belting the message that “it’s a new dawn, a new day, a new life.” And while the newly svelte American Idol alum’s rendition of “Feeling Good” is part of a nifty ad campaign for Weight Watchers, J.Hud could just as easily be shilling for Idol itself, which returned tonight for its tenth season with new judges, a new positive outlook, and a new obsession with vocalists who were just finishing up second grade when Kelly Clarkson was learning the lyrics to “A Moment Like This.” (Have fun swallowing that thought along with your Metamucil and your chewable calcium!)

Yes, folks, as sure as Justin Bieber’s hair is worth more than your car, American Idol is going to foist some sort of teenage dream onto the radio-listening public before summer arrives. How can I be so sure? Well, more than half of the 11 Golden Ticket recipients we heard singing during tonight’s telecast were 16 or younger. And each and every one of those kids had a megawatt smile, a polite demeanor, and the kind of hair Pantene wouldn’t hesitate to endorse.

But let’s go easy on Nigel Lythgoe & Co. this evening. Because while Idol once again partook of many of the audition-round behaviors that make me curse its very existence — playing up sad-sack background packages; not getting to an actual contestant tryout till 14 minutes into the episode; generally not allowing full-figured females within 100 yards of the judges’ table — I’ve got to applaud its newfound emphasis on Golden Ticket-worthy moments rather than school cafeteria-style taunts of those with deficiencies in hygiene, self-awareness, and (horror!) American accents.

What’s more, the radically altered judges panel — newcomers Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez, along with old dawg Randy Jackson — far exceeded my expectations, and even more remarkably, distracted my brain for the better part of two hours from any “I miss Simon Cowell” nostalgia. (Granted, we really have to wait till the live performance episodes kick off before we can label Tyler and/or Lopez as Idol successes; if even a one-time Oscar host and veteran standup comic like Ellen DeGeneres can crumble under the weight of telling Andrew Garcia that his shtick is up, then I don’t think it’s unfair to take a wait-and-see approach to either of this year’s neophyte judges.)

That caveat aside, I’ve got to admit that I was wowed by Tyler’s performance tonight, especially when I compare it to the handful of his media interviews I’ve listened to over the last few months. Just as new parents typically need a few weeks to learn the meaning behind their infants varying cries and grunts (“I’m hungry!” “I need holding!” “I have a poopy diaper!”), I expected we’d be spending the better part of the evening trying to crack the code of Tyler’s grunts and squeals and roars (“You were great!” “You were terrible!” “I have a poopy diaper!”)

Turns out, however, that at least in a pre-taped, carefully edited setting, Tyler might turn out to be the star of the panel. His grammar may be questionable — oh how I longed to Krazy-Glue the letters L and Y to the end of Tyler’s “You sing beautiful” critiques! — and the old dude’s blatant flirting with underage female contestants falls somewhere between unfortunate and abhorrent, but he’s got a tangible love of music and an undeniably gifted ear. I found it completely endearing the way Tyler let out spontaneous hoots during the night’s best auditions, as if he was just a carefree kid singing along at his favorite band’s concert. Isn’t that what music appreciation is supposed to be all about? And unlike so many reality TV personalities who stretch and strive and contort themselves into “wacky” posturing, Tyler’s every word comes across as genuine. He’s wacky in reality, not reality TV “wacky.”

J.Lo, for her part, needs to toughen up and learn how to give a firm “no” to young folks who ought to be going to college or learning a trade instead of wasting their precious energy on delusions of musical superstardom. But that aside, The Lady Lopez still proved a thoroughly charming presence on the panel, mostly because she seemed to be paying genuinely close attention to the contestants, and not using her newfound role on America’s most popular television program to turn the focus on herself. Plus, J.Lo’s not afraid to take control if necessary: When Randy wondered if the panel should vote on Robbie Rosen’s fate, even though there was no question he was getting a Golden Ticket, she did everything but wheel the kid’s luggage to the tarmac. “No,” she responded. “Hollywood! Bye!” Well-played, Jenny from the Block!

And Randy, well, at least he kept the “yo, yo, yo, what’s goin’ down, dawg?” shtick to a minimum. If going third in the judges’ rotation keeps the man from stammering and stalling, then here’s hoping he remains on the right side of my TV screen from now through late May.

But enough about our judges: As any good Idoloonie will tell you, a season is only as good as its contestants! And while I can’t say that any magic rainbows appeared before my eyes during tonight’s show, there were at least a half-dozen wannabes who, based on raw vocal talent, would’ve easily cracked the upper half of the Season 9 finals. Let’s run down the 11 Golden Ticket holders from most to least promising:

Robbie Rosen (pictured, top right) | I’m not sure the producers did any favors for this adorable 16-year-old by revealing he’d spent time in a wheelchair when he was five years old. Tough-luck backstories can help a contestant stand out from the pack in the early part of the season, but ultimately, you want to be remembered for your vocals. Luckily for Robbie, his rendition of the Beatles’ “Yesterday” was not only pitch perfect, but struck that hard-to-hit zone of sounding original without completely decimating a classic melody (especially tricky when covering the Fab Four). And while the kid’s helmet hair and trip-to-the-mall duds won’t exactly be vote magnets once the competition is placed in the public’s hands, that might just mean we’ve got a jaunty style transformation to look forward to in the weeks and months ahead.

Brielle von Hugel (pictured, bottom left) | I know, I know, another super-young front-runner means another opportunity for Randy to repeat the mantra “and she’s only 16!” for the next 20 weeks. And another sob-story audition package — Brielle’s father overcame throat cancer within the past year — means some rejected auditioner watched from her couch tonight and screeched at her dad, “If you really loved me, you’d have developed a life-threatening illness to catch the producers’ eyes, too!” (Too dark?) Yet while the Dawg and Jennifer both expressed their concern that Brielle’s voice needed work, I absolutely loved the restraint she showed on her rendition of “Endless Love.” Granted, if I was one of Brielle’s parents, I’d have vetoed that gray-green dress with the plunging neckline in favor of something a wee bit more age-appropriate, but I liked the courteous note she struck as she left the audition room, telling the judges “It was an honor meeting you.”

Travis Orlando (pictured, top left) | Our third (but by no means final) 16-year-old with a hardscrabble background, Travis didn’t hit a single sour note while testing the waters on both “Eleanor Rigby” and “I’m Yours.” I’m not quite sure why Randy insisted the young man needed to “shake out the whole vibe,” seeing how Travis’ dark-rimmed glasses and nifty red t-shirt (emblazoned with the message “It’s Gonna Be Fantastic”) came together to create a crisp urban hipster effect, but I suspect we haven’t seen the last of this Bronx native.

Devyn Rush | This singing waitress at Ellen’s Stardust Diner in Manhattan impressed the panel with a jazzy rendition of “God Bless the Child,” yet while it’s apparent that Devyn’s got a powerful instrument, I thought she infused the song with too much theatricality and not enough raw emotion. Plus, as J.Lo pointed out, in today’s record business, you need to have the look, the attitude, and the wardrobe to go along with your raw talent. Or, as Steven summed it up, “Someone’s gotta take her clothes shopping.”

Caleb Hawley | It’s always refreshing to see an uptempo audition number, and the shaggy-maned soul man showed great energy on “Hallelujah, I Love Her So.” I worry, though, that there were a few too many cracks and strains in Caleb’s vocal — and not in a good way. Another one who’ll need a little TLC from the Idol vocal coaches and wardrobe department.

Melinda Ademi | Yep, apparently Idol wants to get a bulk rate for backstage tutors this year, seeing how this contestant is 16, too. Melinda, whose family fled Kosovo when she was a young girl, certainly has decent chops and good looks in her corner, but her rote choice of Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You” felt a little Season Five, for me for you.

Rachel Zevita | J.Lo confirmed she’s a hardcore Idoloonie by remembering the season’s first auditioner from her previous attempt at the show back in season 6. Or maybe La Lopez just remembers the time Rachel was a musical guest on my old EW Web series Idolatry back in 2007. Happy reminiscing aside, though, Rachel’s rendition of “Hallelujah” didn’t strike me as the sort of performance that would get her past day one of Hollywood Week — which is precisely the fate she met back in season 6.

Kenize Palmer | I wasn’t a big fan of Idol lowering its age limit to 15 for season 10, and I still need more convincing after watching Kenzie lend her massive pipes to Carrie Underwood’s “We’re Young and Beautiful” as if she were applying a pick-axe to a brick wall. As Steven said, before caving to pressure from Randy and J.Lo and saying yes to a Golden Ticket: “I wasn’t feelin’ the pizzazz.”

The remaining three contestants to advance to the next round tonight all entered the audition room looking like comic relief, but proved that you can’t necessarily judge a CD by its label. As a proud resident of Jersey City myself, I groaned at the producers’ decision to do a whole Jersey Shore-themed segment that wound up focusing on Tiffany Rios, a busty woman with two huge silver stars somehow attached to the front of her bikini. But after Tiffany whiffed trying to cough up a weakly written original ditty, she switched gears and belted Laura Branigan’s “The Power of Love” with such speaker-shattering intensity that I actually caught a little bit of feedback in the audio mix. I know the woman was moved to tears at the sight of Jennifer Lopez, but I’d have DQ’d her simply for dropping to the squatting position midway through the chorus. Actually, I wouldn’t have let her into the audition room in that outfit of hers: To me, a bikini top paired with gray slacks and a black jacket is not only in poor taste, but also a strong indicator that when the chips are down, a contestant probably values 60 seconds of airtime more than a potential singing career.

As for Ashley Sullivan and Victoria Huggins, well, it’s hard for me to say with certainty whether either lady had any awareness she was straddling the line between Golden Ticket and pure gimmick tonight. Surely, Ashley couldn’t have thought the producers were taking her dreams too seriously when they filmed her emerging gleefully from a Port-a-Potty, but then again, her rendition of “Gimme Gimme” was so maniacal — and her breakdown in front of the judges was so over-the-top — that I honestly question whether or not Idol producers should have put her fragile self on air in the first place. Then again, I suppose if I ran Idol and I’d gotten a contestant loudly declaring, “Mainstream needs to get with Liza Minelli!” I’d have looked for a way to get him on the airwaves, too.

And finally we come to the curious case of aggressively perky 16-year-old Victoria (pictured, bottom right): I felt like I’d taken a giant bite out of a Serrano pepper the entire time I was watching this girl crank the volume to 10 and jazz-hands her way to a Golden Ticket. Somewhere beneath the horrible, unending burning sensation, though, you know some good flavors are lurking, and Victoria’s “Midnight Train to Georgia” was exactly that: Sung with potency, emotional connectedness, and lovely whisp of falsetto on the “whoo-hoos.”

Even if you include Victoria in the mix, we only got a handful of train-wreck auditions tonight, and even most of those typically repetitive interactions yielded a few funny moments. There was the woman who sounded like a dehydrated, off-key Grace Jones. There was the boy scout whose straw hat and green plaid shirt was ridiculed by the judges, but honestly, I didn’t think his duds looked any worse than most of the guys who advanced to Hollywood. And finally, we had Steven looking up at Michael Perotto and asking, “Did you eat a lot of paint chips as a child?”

Funniest line of the night, though, goes to Japanese dancer Yoji “Pop” Asano, who (vocally) butchered Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA” while simultaneously delivering some dance steps worthy of that Paula Abdul series from the Thunderdome. Asked at the end of the day if he was, in fact, a Miley fan, however, Yoji simply could not tell a lie. “Not really,” he explained. And just like that, I dissolved into laughter. Thanks for a good time tonight, Idol, and welcome back!

What did you think about Idol‘s season 10 premiere? How about the show’s new credits, and new giant ‘Idol‘ logo? Share your thoughts below, and to get all my news and commentary — as well as updates on how you can become a cohost of TVLine.com’s new video series, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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128 Comments
  1. WhiteLady says:

    Wow, seems like I got here first… sort of normal since I live in Europe and it’s wee hours in the mornign there!

    Slezak, I’m happy to find you again since I always watch the shows late (gotta download them since they don’t air in Spain), and I read your reviews first…

    Keep up the good work!

    • WhiteLady says:

      And by the way;: ““If you really loved me, you’d have developed a life-threatening illness to catch the producers’ eyes, too!” LOL!
      Sounds just like the spoiled rich girl in Charlie and the chocolate factory.
      I might have been late in coming to the party (only started watching Season) but I consider myself a fully qualified Idoloonie now!

    • kellybelly says:

      Regarding the new logos/graphics: Being AI, they are of course overblown and overdone. And Hilarious. And take way, way too long. And of course AI will milk EVERYTHING dry. i.e. logos, intro, the new judges intro, etc.
      That said, it was what I come to expect from Idol — vats of cheese. That’s why I have fastforward on my tivo.

  2. Ellen Connelly says:

    Wow, I was so pleasantly surprised to really enjoy tonights show. I wasn’t even going to watch it, but I did and I loved Steven Tyler and i didn’t mind JLo at all. Randy is Randy. Did you notice he didn’t get much of the camera time. The angle of the camera always focused on Steven and JLo. Also so psyched to find you Michael.

  3. Kiki says:

    Thank God I found you again, Michael!! I am SO glad you’re still recapping Idol…it wouldn’t have been the same without you!!

    • forwarddad says:

      Thanks to the poster on EW who posted this web site!!!!

    • lunakit says:

      YAY Michael! Fortunately, I read about your new gig from one of the EW posted comments. Found you!! I love Annie B and will read her recaps as well, but it just wouldn’t be the same without you! AND don’t tell me that you won’t be comparing your recaps with hers!! I suggest we get a game going each week to compare your recaps!!!

  4. Marilyn says:

    I loved Steven and a couple contestants are worthy of seeing again. I will keep watching anyway. I love that Adam Lambert and Jennifer Hudson were added to the opening as they should be.

    • MDEP says:

      And Chris Daughtry was added too :)

    • Jill Wautlet says:

      amen to that!! when I saw a peek of adam in the beginning I thought “YES” – our boy’s face needs to be up there – he kicked some boot-ay this year with his Glam Nation Tour both here at home & around th globe!! and just for the record – Slezak i’m so excited to “find you” – as so many have said in these comments, the “day after” idol wouldn’t be the same without your recaps!! :0) thanks & keep’em coming!! this season’s gonna rock – the new judges are a breath of fresh air!! my face hurt last nite from smiling & laughing so much…

  5. JenR says:

    I thought it was a promising start. I hope we get some more mature contestants soon though. I am more excited by getting to read your recap and then go read Annie’s as well then I was by the first show.

  6. the real wendy says:

    Yay! Michael Slezak! and I guess fine about the show.

  7. Matt says:

    It was a good show last night. To say I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement! Steven Tyler was great, JLo was cool, and Randy managed not to screw it up! I really think they’ll have some momentum as a panel when they get to Hollywood. I also think that the teenagers are going to dominate this season…just no Biebers, please!

  8. Sharon says:

    I only lasted about a half hour with the show before I left the room. Still, I could hear the show from another room, and it sounded like the auditions from any other season. Same sounding voices, same wackos, same audition songs… it’s stale.

    • Allie says:

      I couldn’t disagree more! I clearly remember thinking last year, at this time, that the audition round felt stale. Simon clearly didn’t care, Randy was Randy and Kara was trying her best to make up for her awful performance the year before. Last night? I felt like it had all the good parts of Idol – the singing, the reflections on our crazy society – and it had the new judges to keep it fresh! I thought it was very fun and Steven Tyler was surprisingly entertaining.

  9. dctoronto says:

    I am glad Michael that you pointed out Steven’s really inappropriate behavior towards a number of the younger female performers. While I suspect it’s common in the music industry I can only hope that A.I. producers get him to stop.

    Did anyone notice Randy trying to get Steven and Jennifer to laugh/ridicule the less talented performers? Glad to see that they did not rise to the bait.

    • sara says:

      Considering the fact that Nigel Lythgoe is a horrendous perv himself somehow I doubt he will be asking him to stop. I saw this coming the minute Lythgoe came in and lowered the age limit to 15.

      • Jody says:

        I agree with you about Nigel. He produces great shows but I wish he would stay behind the camera. His smarminess is my least favorite part of So You Think You Can Dance.

        • Teresa says:

          Nigel’s perviness is off-putting, but I have always looked on it as overcompensation. It’s his way of making sure we know he’s not gay.

    • MichelleR says:

      This is the guy who cast his own daughter as the eye candy in several of his videos, including making her kiss Alicia Silverstone. I don’t see him stopping unless the audience really becomes up in arrms.

  10. Joyce says:

    So glad I found you Michael! Idol would not have been the same without you. I love the recaps almost more than the show itself.
    I was pleasantly surprised by Steven Tyler and J Lo. ST was funnier and more coherent than I expected and J Lo wasn’t the diva I was expecting.

    • Allie says:

      I don’t know why people think J. Lo would be a diva. She has consistently remained “Jenny from the block” despite all the media hoopla surrounding Bennifer. Even as a guest judge/mentor before, J. Lo was always quirky, fun, and kind to the contestants. Our culture is so jaded…..we follow celebrities like rabid dogs and then hate them for being so famous.

  11. Jen says:

    Michael I am happy to see you here. I have missed your wit and wisdom and I do hope you will revive “Idolatry”. That being said, S.T was better than I thought he would be and so was Jennifer Lopez. They gave thoughtful responses which was so refreshing after 2 years of Kara falling all over Simon, goofing off, and not paying attention. I have high hopes for this season.

    • Rush says:

      “Idolotry” is intellectual property of Time Warner, but hopefully Michael will do a vlog under obviously a different title.

  12. underthepiano says:

    Steven Tyler was fantastic. Nice, nice energy from the entire judging panel. Best part is watching Tyler’s reaction to the contestants – particularly when he sings along and provides percussion on the table. This is going to be a fun season to watch. I am already rooting for Travis Orlando and his sweet vocals.

  13. Carlito says:

    I thought Steven Tyler was GREAT amd Jlo not bad. I think Idol is back! Fantastic recap as usual Slezak – so glad you’re still covering AI.

  14. TeamTweety says:

    So will there be a TVLine version of Idolatry? I can’t even imagine an Idol Season without it, please don’t tell me it is gone for good?? :(

  15. Ghost of Kelly Clarkson says:

    Did anyone else notice Adam Lambert’s photo among the images of past Idols in the opening montage?

    • CarolLeslie says:

      I noticed,and am surprised Slezak didn’t mention it. A nice mini-carrot thrown to the glamberts still watching idol.

    • duranmnom says:

      I noticed that too and I didn’t think out of 9 other seasons he and J Hud should have been the two who were added to the winners. I think only the “Idols” should be in the opening. Call me crazy, but they did WIN.

      • Ghost of Kelly Clarkson says:

        Yeah, I thought that was weird. And I like Adam, J-Hud and Daughtry (who I think was also in there). It seems a bit like they are trying to revise history by including their very successful “non-Idols”.

      • Allie says:

        This is such an insignificant quibble….the people mentioned that are now in the opening credits are only famous at this point because they were on American Idol. I have absolutely no problem with Idol taking credit for their success. Also, the AI producers have no control over the public’s voting after the Hollywood Week. On Daughtry’s season, it was pretty obvious that he was the biggest star on the stage and should have won the season.

      • Teresa says:

        I like the addition of successful finalists because it reminds viewers that they’re allowed to love all the dreamers who try out for Idol. Even if you leave early, you are still a part of the “idol family.” Last year, the producers spent a moment to mourn the passing of a contestant who didn’t make it that far. But she was still an Idol.

        The show has every right to claim its part, especially in Adam and Chris’s success, since they were signed through the show. Jennifer did it more on her own, but we never would have known her name if she hadn’t made such a splash during her season.

  16. allie says:

    whew! So glad I found you here, Slezak! Idol Season wouldn’t be the same without you! I too was pleasantly surprised last night… but when you go in with REALLY low expectations anything is bound to be good, right? While the kids were ok, no one really jumped out at me. I do hope there will be some older contestants though. Right now it is looking like AI Jr which won’t keep me watching all season. I am envisioning riviting scenes of kids doing homework at the Idol House in between Ford commercials.

  17. B- says:

    Jennifer wasn’t the “Diva” everyone was expecting because she’s really not like that at all. Also, when she was a guest mentor seasons ago, she gave the kids good advice and even got a decent performance out of Sanjaya.

    Why is everyone so shocked now? If she was a bitchy diva with no talent she wouldn’t have lasted so long.

    Her and Tyler were great together. This is the first season I plan to fully watch since David Cook won.

  18. Micky says:

    I couldn’t decide who I missed more last night- Simon or you! I can breath easy again now that I found you here on tvline. Michael- you are half the fun of an Idol season!! Glad you didn’t disappear.

  19. Sarah M says:

    THANK GOD! Michael’s back!! Oh, and Idol was ok too.

  20. gwe says:

    jlo was much better than Kara!!!!! pleasantly surprised. steven is hilarious!

  21. hsr says:

    Thank Goodness I found you over here. I absolutely panicked a few minutes ago. And, for the love of Michael, let there be more Idolatry. Please, please, please let me get what I want. Fun fact: Morrissey wrote that song about Idolatry.

  22. cornelle says:

    Hey Michael: well, since you’re the best thing about the show, and since the only way to truly appreciate your genius is to actually WATCH the show, I guess I will TiVo the season with finger firmly planted on the fast-forward button–alternating between the commercials and non-Steven Tyler content. I thought he was a cross between Paula Abdul (e.g., “You have the what-it-is-ness”) and Dabney Coleman’s character on 9 to 5. JLO is BORING. Randy is TIRED. Sob stories about making it (and ultimately not) are so “I don’t have anything to do so I jump off bridges in Tennessee/Season 9.” Let’s hope they all pick up steam but even if not it will still probably end in the Top 5 for the season — nothing else to watch!

  23. MBC says:

    I LOVED IT!

  24. L says:

    Michael, So glad I found you. I always looked forward to your recaps – they were the best part of American Idol. I thought the show was okay, although I found Steven Tyler somewhat creepy to the women. His musical opinion was worth listening too though. The jury’s still out.

    Looking forward to reading your recaps. So glad you’re still doing them.

  25. darclyte says:

    Surprisingly, it wasn’t too bad. Steven was decent, and I liked how he “accompanied” some of the contestants. J-Lo reminded me a little of Shania Twain (who I had hoped they’d hire) and you can tell that she really is interested in the contestants and the show (unlike Simon the past few years.) Randy actually had some good critiques. Where was THIS Randy the past 9 seasons?

    As for the contestants, nobody blew me away. Victoria reminded me a bit of Tatiana, but not quite as “get away from me because you’re obnoxiously annoying,” more “too darn perky to be around long annoying.” Boobs McGee got through? Seriously? She wasn’t terrible, but I don’t see her going very far. The manic gal made me laugh, but will she have a breakdown? I like quirky people, but I don’t think she’s the “next Siobhan.”

    I also noticed Lambert, Daughtry and I think J-Hud in the credits along with the winners. Too funny.

  26. Peggy Sue says:

    Yes, Yes and Yes!!! It was a GREAT night! My 17-year old son and I watched with total delight as Steven Tyler let out his stream of crazy consciousness and humor and J-Lo was her beautiful and kind self, and Randy kept the connection from the past going. We were cautious about the night before it began, and then pleasantly surprised by the end of the night that – as you said Michael – we did NOT miss Simon and his bad attitude at all. Waiting to see what Simon said is not any more interesting – and maybe much less so – than seeing what Steven Tyler is gonna say! We also noticed bursts of laughter from the crew, which we had NEVER heard in years past. Way more fun this year! Horaaaayyyyy!

    • Allie says:

      I noticed that too! (the laughing in the background). To me, the night proved that you can be entertaining while judging without being cruel. It also proved that true star power doesn’t have to work very hard to be interesting to watch. Unlike say Kara and Randy, I didn’t get the sense that Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez were putting on an act for the cameras. This is who they are and they are born entertainers.

  27. AprilD says:

    Well, with the age lowered even more, I’m still waiting for that mother/daughter audition. Didn’t watch all of it, but I don’t think I needed to. The auditions aren’t my favorite part of the show. But I’m so glad to see you still writing about Idol. You’re more than 1/2 the reason I’m still tuning in for the show!

  28. KT says:

    You would have DQ’d Tiffany? Wouldn’t sending her to Dairy Queen reward her behavior?

  29. jado says:

    You don’t realize the extent of how the interpersonal dynamics of the judging panel affects the tone of the show till there is a seismic change. Simon, although insightful and brutally honest at times, was like a grumpy ol’ black hole, his gravitational pull effected Randy, Paula, and Kara, altering their natural orbit. Although they tried to appear independent – Randy, Paula, Kara (and sometimes Ellen) too often seemed to be either seeking Simon’s approval or proving to him he’s wrong. Either way he was a force that warped music critiques meant for the contestants into commentary about the panelists themselves.

    It’s refreshing to see the judges from this season fully focussing their attention on the auditions and not making it about themselves. (take note Randy – don’t slip into old dawg habits.)

  30. Rush says:

    Michael, any chance of doing a vlog for Idol? Idolatry was one of my favorite passtimes on the old site.

  31. Mark C says:

    Michael you are the best part of idol. I don’t know how you bang these things out by the time I wake up but KUDOS YOU. Now two thoughts. 1) Boy scout boy could do well with an ‘autotune the news treatment’ of his “no texting while driving” PSA. and 2)Were those “bursts of laughter from the crew” or a canned laugh track? Either way they felt forced and left a bad taste in my mouth.

  32. Christina says:

    The judges = awesome. The talent = crap. The show might be able to survive the auditions rounds with these judges but if the talent doesn’t get better things don’t bode well for once this show goes live.

  33. low marks says:

    Was underwhelmed. Almost no sharp critiques. “You sing Beautiful”.
    “AAWWW! I can’t say no!” Please. Simon, where are you?

  34. denise says:

    Glad you are still recapping! I haven’t enjoyed the audition rounds in years, happy the focus was somewhat take away from the trainwrecks. I actually watched the whole thing (well… thanks to dvr, I got to skip the sob stories)

  35. shelly says:

    The panel was ok, though I do miss Simon’s brutal honesty. He wasn’t afraid to say “no.” Yesterday I felt there were always 3 yesses to make it to Hollywood. They let too many people pass through. Are they going to end up with 500 people in Hollywood??

  36. Fan says:

    Wow, Michael, I’m so glad I tracked you down! Loved your recap!

  37. DQ says:

    I loved the show! I was disappointed to see that all the names of the people who made it through to the next round were not published at the end.

    Lopez and Tyler make it fresh and they definitely held their own. Lopez got bolder as the auditions wore on. I like that the whole show is less mean and nasty. The focus was on the contestants instead of the judges. I enjoyed it a lot more than the last season so far.

  38. Mary says:

    I love the new judging panel! They were genuine and entertaining. I hardly missed Simon and certainly didn’t miss Kara. I think this could really be a good season.

  39. Finian says:

    Good start – let’s see what happens as the newness wears off for the judges and the viewers alike. Sitting here wondering who else will start showing up in the comments section. I already miss Kristy Lee’s Horse….

  40. Michael, I am so glad I found you again! I can handle Idol without Simon, but not without Slezak :). Will you be doing an Idolatry-type review as well (pretty please)?

  41. SDTim says:

    I agree with lots of folks here — Idol without Sleazak is no Idol at all! Glad they’re both back :-)
    That said, I enjoyed the show. It reminded me of when AI first came on. Check out old YouTube clips to see what I mean. When it first started, Simon, Randy and Paula were actually interested in being there and doing their jobs. I think, by the end of Simon and Paula’s time on the show, they were too involved with their own celebrity and could barely care about the auditions. Steven Tyler and J Lo were great — attentive to the auditions, great feedback, and still managed to “be real” and have fun at the same time. I’ll keep watchin!

  42. Leila says:

    Steven was hysterical, and J. Lo was more fun to watch than Paula, Ellen or Kara. The contestants were blah.

  43. Jackson says:

    Loved the show……wayyyyyy more positive than in past, more singers than normal shown, love the youth movement, they are going to get the 15 and 16 year old stars before they sign. Slezak, you’re recaps are every bit of AI tradition as anything, glad you’re still posting.

  44. ASH says:

    Thought it was a good start (surprisingly) and, for now, will continue to watch. Both Steven Tyler and J-Lo infuse the judges panel with some much needed energy. But, I still have my eye on the Exit door, especially since I think there were several of those teenagers that made it through last night that Simon would have skewered. But it is pretty clear even now that a true teenybopper Idol winner is who they want this year. And a couple of those kids stand a decent chance. But, if that Ashley girl starts to displace some of the more talented contestants…Oy!

  45. Sophie says:

    I didn’t hate it. I thought J. Lo was a great mentor several years back and she fit into the judging panel seamlesslessly. The big payoff was Tyler. Love how he is willing to play off his image in his comments to the contestants. Randy was a slightly more tolerable version of himself. As for the contestants. No one moved me. Enough with the sappy back stories. Enough with the Disney Channel tryouts. Bring on some singers with a depth of talent.

  46. Jennifer B says:

    Love you Slezak. Almost had a panic attack when I saw Annie was taking your spot – glad I found you so quickly :)

  47. Monte says:

    Isn’t it scary and beautiful that Randy never changes? Never ups his game, dawg? He can sit next to JLo, Paula, Kara or Ellen and he’s exactly the same. Well, his weight goes up and down, his glasses are different, but it doesn’t change his judging in the slightest. I almost admire it.
    The other thing I liked about the new show of the new season is the lack of major train wrecks. We didn’t get too much mocking of the contestants and we heard people who really want to sing–actually sing! What nice surprise.

  48. Vighorois says:

    Laura Branigan’s Power of Love? You mean Jennifer Rush’s, right, since you’re not too young to remember Celine only?

  49. Marta says:

    (in the styling of Mariah Carey) “Thank God I found you I was lost with outttt you!” Pumped to follow an geniune and gifted fan of the show once again, Slezak!

    I appreciate your idea to not jump to total conclusions about ST and J-Lo based on the first episode– but it was indeed a good first showing of both. Who they are seemed to shine through– not too much of a schtick. As for missing Simon– Maybe the glory days Simon- but who could say they miss the “checked out” Simon of last season? Not me– at all. Very pleased with the fresh look.

  50. Tulip says:

    I will adopt a wait and see attitude about this season buuuuut if Steven Tyler keeps up his cute as a button act I may fall in love with this show again.

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