Tonight marks the triumphant return of American Idol, which is celebrating its 10th season with a tip-to-toe revamp that includes new judges, a new bandleader, and a new minimum age. But the season-opening audition episodes, which run through February 3, will probably not look too different—sure, the absence of Simon Cowell's withering glare will mean that they'll be a tad nicer by default, but the early episodes have in recent years performed better, ratings-wise, than those installments of the show that are actually crucial to its overall narrative arc. So the lousy auditions will still be in there (two hours is a lot of time to fill, after all), as will the filler bits involving the new judges getting out of limousines and acting like they've been friends for years and Ryan Seacrest hyping up arenas filled with probably doomed hopefuls. Think of it as a bit of comfort food before the ice-water shock of the newer, hipper Idol kicks in during Hollywood Week.
In the spirit of the audition episodes serving as Idol's constant during this season of great change, we've put together a list of a few timeless tropes that will no doubt be trotted out again tonight. How many times will each of them take place? Our over/under predictions are below.
• Number of times Ryan Seacrest will awkwardly reference "New York" even though he's clearly across the river: 8
• Number of times the editors will try to keep alive the illusion that the cattle-call auditions and the meetings with Steven, Jenny, and Randy are in the same place/during the same month: 12
• Number of times "Empire State Of Mind" will be heard: 3
• Number of people who will awkwardly sing "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" in a misguided attempt to impress Aerosmith yelper Steven Tyler: 7
• Number of people whose awkward renditions of "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" will be better than the rendition offered up by Antonella Barba during season six: 2
• Number of people wearing vintage JLO by Jennifer Lopez clothing who will make it past the producers: 0
• Number of actually decent singers who will be hailed as tonight's "next big thing" and never be heard from again for the rest of the season, although they might get glimpsed in the background of a intragroup fight scene during Hollywood Week: 13
• Number of times viewers at home, defeated by a particularly bad "lousy" audition, will mumble to nobody in particular, "Man, I wish the 'I Am Your Brother' guy was still around" during the two-hour broadcast: 5
• Number of contestants who will, after getting dinged, petulantly tell the panel that Simon would have loved their act: 8
• Number of egregious product placements for Coca-Cola, Ford, and AT&T Wireless: 1,586 (and yes, I know that's a bit of a conservative estimate)
Be sure to follow Popdust's Twitter feed for live-Tweeting of tonight's Idol premiere, and come back for our recap after the show's over!