Tim Nudd
January 17, 2007 12:40 PM

Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell were back in their judges chairs Tuesday night as American Idol began its sixth season with auditions in Minneapolis – or as an ornery Jackson renamed it, Minnehopeless.

The premiere was the most-watched Idol debut ever, drawing 37.3 million viewers, according to preliminary ratings from Nielsen Media Research. During last season’s premiere 35.5 million people tuned in.

Singer Jewel sat in as a guest judge, as the hopefuls – most of whose hopes outpaced their abilities – crooned and preened for a spot in the finals.

As usual for an audition round, many of the low-points Tuesday were also high-points. Standouts, for all the wrong reasons, included Troy Benham, a self-described urban Amish, who said he’d never seen Idol before and who sang about spitting and roaches, and Charles Moody, who dressed as boxer Apollo Creed in an unsuccessful attempt to “knock out this performance.”

Jackson, possibly tired of playing the good cop, did his best Cowell impression after listening to vocal teacher Stephen Horst. Jackson suggested his students demand their money back.

A few singers did impress, including 16-year-old Denise Jackson, who chose “You’re Gonna Love Me” as her song, and Jarrod Fowler of the U.S. Navy, who said he’d won a “Reagan Idol” contest aboard the USS Ronald Reagan. He sang the Rascall Flatts song “Bless the Broken Road.”

Host Ryan Seacrest explained that opening in Minneapolis was a tribute of sorts to hometown hero Prince, who wowed the audience with his performance at last season’s Idol finale. However, in a montage of singers who attempted Prince’s song “Kiss” during their audition, his music was badly mangled. At the end of it, Jackson shook his head and said that doubted Prince would ever appear on the show again.

Idol continues Wednesday night with auditions in Seattle, the same city where last week Abdul made a bizarre appearance (via satellite) in a local news station.

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