Stability at the judges' table means all eyes are the singers – for better or worse

By Tim Nudd
Updated January 18, 2012 11:10 AM
Credit: Frank Micelotta/FOX

Last year, all eyes were on Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler as they settled into their new roles as American Idol judges at the start of season 10. But as the show ramps up Wednesday night (8 p.m. ET) with the judges’ panel intact, all eyes this year should be on the talent – or lack thereof – as televised auditions begin.

But in an increasingly crowded genre, can one of TV’s veteran singing competitions still make sweet music for viewers?

The judges clearly think so. In a recent interview, Randy Jackson referred to Idol as the “Picasso” of singing shows, the original that’s been widely imitated.

Yet Idol hasn’t produced a true breakthrough superstar in a while – and it could use one in its battle against upstart rivals like The Voice and Simon Cowell‘s The X Factor.

Of course, along with the talented singers, there’s always the goofy ones who ambush the auditions with hilariously bad performances, forcing the judges to respond in the most diplomatic way possible – or fall apart in an explosion of giggles.