Randy Jackson, Kara DioGuardi, Ryan Seacrest, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell, American Idol

With the eighth season of American Idol now just six weeks away, comments from Simon Cowell and a network exec — as well as a new promo — offer a peek at how things might be just a bit different this time around, especially in the wake of last winter's nine percent dip in the key demos.

Speaking about Kara DioGuardi, the singer-songwriter who will join him, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson on the dais this year, Cowell tells TV's Extra, "She's mouthy, this girl. I'm beginning to warm to her." The sometimes bratty Brit then heaps on the most pertinent bit of praise, saying, "I think she knows what she's talking about." (Watch DioGuardi at work in the video below.)

As for broader changes being made to the top-rated program that sends rivals quaking in their boots, Mike Darnell, Fox's president of alternative programming, tells TV Week that this cycle will be "more intimate" and "more raw" than last. "It's going back to ... seeing more of [the contestants'] reality ... a little more of their emotional state," he says.

In a turnabout from Season 7's marketing — which fashioned wannabes into "stars" perhaps too soon in the competition — Fox marketing chief Joe Earley tells TV Week that new promos will dial down the puffery and instead focus on the Everyman (or woman) who could win this thing.

Coming on the heels of the election cycle, "We've been through a lot of divisiveness lately," Earley says, "and our message is, 'It's time to stop arguing and fighting, to all pull together.' American Idol is an event that brings us all together."

It's also an event that brings in the occasional bikini-clad balladeer, as this Season 8 promo shows:

A second Season 8 promo, starring David Cook, can be found here.