If the latest reports are to be believed, when Fox launches the 10th season of American Idol in January, the contestants will be hearing from judges Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler.
How the chemistry among the trio — which might still be a foursome — would jell remains an unknown, but here's what we do know about the new season:
Contestants as young as 15 years old are eligible to compete (So get ready for more Katie Stevenses and Aaron Kellys.) Nigel Lythgoe will likely be back as an executive producer (and he's on the record as not being a fan of the four-person panel). And, in the most notable shift, Ellen DeGeneres, Kara DioGuardi and Simon Cowell will all be gone.
With three of last season's four judges out, here's what we stand to lose — and whether or not we'll miss it:
Brutal honesty Each year, most of the top 12 contestants are — how shall we put it? — not at all talented. Who but Simon will have the stones to call out and shut down the Tim Urbans of the competition? Not Randy, the "It was just aight for me" king of nonsensical waffling. (To wit: One of our favorite Urban put-downs: "It was completely and utterly pointless and silly. ... You've got zero chance of winning.") WE'LL MISS IT
Someone to emasculate Ryan Seacrest The Idol emcee was all sorts of bizarre this season, between making Didi squirm and claiming he single-handedly kept Crystal Bowersox from quitting. Simon kept him in check. Then again, Simon's absence also means an end to the awful gay-baiting banter that was their stock in trade. Ultimately, a good thing. TOSS-UP
"No Boundaries," etc. The DioGuardi-penned original that reared its ugly head during Season 9 wasn't her finest hour. Here's hoping Lopez and Tyler don't pick up a pen. Inspirational cover songs will be just fine from now on for the winners. WON'T MISS IT
Too-tight V-necks and pantsuits Farewell to Cowell's luxuriant chest sweater. So long to DeGeneres' snazzy boyish get-ups. Can Tyler's scarves and Lopez's Louboutins even hope to compete? WE'LL MISS IT
Someone who cares enough to cry Toward the end of her run, Abdul would break down for just about any treacly tune. So it was nice to see Michael Lynche's worthy rendition of Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" move aspiring mama Kara to real tears. WE'LL MISS IT
Substantive song-choice advice If reports are to be believed, the new panel has no producer or veteran from the music industry to weigh in on the issue that bogs down contestants the most: song choice. Say what you will about DioGuardi, she knew why a song worked or, more importantly, didn't. And we're pretty sure that the most astute thing we've heard from Jackson since Season 1 was "For me, for you, I don't know, that song just didn't work for me. It was just aight." WE'LL MISS IT
Comparing contestants to food items Alex really was such a mushy banana, wasn't he? Uh, no. WON'T MISS IT
Awkward flirting First it was Cowell and Paula Abdul. Then Cowell and Seacrest. Then Cowell and DeGeneres. Something tells us that the producers won't be asking Tyler to faux-flirt for the show's "comedic" bits. WON'T MISS IT. AT ALL.