If you'd asked me during the first season of "American Idol" — or really any other season after that — who would be the last judge standing, I never would have picked Randy Jackson, dawg.
And yet as the popular singing competition prepares for its 10th season, the judge who talks a lot but says very little is the only one of the original panel still standing.
"Idol" survived Paula Abdul's departure last season, and it'll no doubt survive Simon Cowell's this season. Though Cowell and his frank-speak were what made the show work, in my opinion, producers have cleverly invented new reasons for us to tune in, even offering a potential Simon replacement.
But the more interesting replacements are the pair stepping in for departed judges Ellen DeGeneres and miscast Kara DioGuardi, who may or may not have been asked to leave the show. (Crime: Annoyingness.)
Pop star and actress Jennifer Lopez, a frequent "Idol" guest star/mentor, and Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler will join Jackson on the judges panel when the show returns on Wednesday (7 p.m. on Fox, cable Channel 4.)
The additions are intriguing: Lopez is personable and pretty, and her qualifications are solid. As for Tyler, a mainstream singing competition seems like an unusual choice for the 62-year-old Aerosmith singer, but as he said when introduced as a judge back in September, "I want to bring some rock to this roller coaster."
The Cowell factor will be provided this season by Jimmy Iovine, the chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records.
He's been given the job of "in-house mentor," a duty previously performed by a rotating cast of guest stars, including Lopez.
Iovine, said to be a tough critic, will pick up where Cowell left off, coaching the contestants and unapologetically pointing out their insufficiencies. He'll get assistance week-to-week from producers Timbaland and Polow Da Don.
The two-night premiere starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday, with a two-hour show featuring auditions from New York and New Jersey and a one-hour show starting at 7 p.m. Thursday featuring New Orleans auditions.
Audition shows will continue on Wednesdays and Thursdays until Feb. 15, when the famous "Hollywood rounds" start.
The surviving contestants will perform Beatles songs in Las Vegas as part of Cirque du Soleil's "LOVE" on Feb. 23, and then on Feb. 24, 10 male and 10 female semifinalists will be named.
They'll go on to compete on March 1 and 2, and the five male and female contestants with the most votes will be named finalists. The judges will add their wild card picks on March 3.
When Randy will offer his first "pitchy" critique and who Ryan Seacrest will bicker with now that Cowell's gone are yet to be determined.
If you watch
'American Idol: Season 10"
What: The singing competition returns for its 10th season, featuring new judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler.
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday on Fox, cable 4
For more information, visit www.americanidol.com