Kimberly Caldwell and Rosanna Tavarez take on <EM>American Idol</EM>. Kimberly Caldwell and Rosanna Tavarez take on American Idol.
American Idol fans, you are hereby advised to make a Tuesday-morning date with's Interviews & Features column, because every week we will be debriefing Kimberly Caldwell and

Rosanna Tavarez, the hosts of TV Guide Channel's Idol Chat and Reality Chat, on the latest happenings and outlook for TV's superpopular sing-off. Kicking off this week, Kimberly (herself a Season 2 Idol contender) and Rosanna weigh in on the "too mean" controversy, the importance of first impressions, and the first clue that a contestant might be just a bit... crazy. First off, why don't you give our readers an overview of Idol Chat, and what they will see if they tune in on any given week.
Rosanna Tavarez: The most important part is that [Season 1 Idol finalist] Justin Guarini has joined the show, so the thing to look forward to is to see us three interact. For some reason, really organically, we have great rapport. He's a lot of fun, and he kind of anchors our commentary, which tends to be a lot, um, edgier, and a little more critical. [Laughs] He restrains himself a little more, so he's a good balance. What's his official title there: "Mop-topped Correspondent"?
Rosanna: No! That's not very nice. You said it, I didn't. Rosie O'Donnell, for one, last week slammed Idol's new season as "too mean." Many have countered that the singers know what they are getting into. What's your qualified point of view on the current level of meanness?
Rosanna: In so far as the kids who walk in with the extravagant and insane costumes, they know what they're getting into. They knowing they're being shticky. You can't walk in with a costume and not be laughed at. Now, the kids who genuinely feel that they are talented but sing off-key or have no stage presence, do they deserve to be criticized as harshly? No. But I could see how by the 200th contestant who walks in not singing well, the judges' patience is just wearing thin!
Kimberly: I feel like Paula is definitely more up front and more real about it, probably because it's been six years of thousands and thousands of people coming in thinking that they're the one, that they really have a shot. At the same time, Simon's probably enjoying it, because it's good TV and it's his show. All the judges are just more like, "I'm not going to beat around the bush anymore. I'm just going to let you know, 'You're not good enough. Get out.'"
Rosanna: Can we just put this out there? People are watching, and usually the more outrageous things you do on television, whether it's the contestants being wild or the judges being mean, it's going to increase the ratings. The day that Paula, Simon and Randy all become Pollyannas is the day that Idol draws "just" 10 million viewers.
Kimberly: Exactly. As I watch these first rounds, especially the singers with more promise, I have to remind myself, "One of these people could end up being the next American Idol." What do you remember of, say, Taylor Hicks' early auditions?
I remember going, "That guy's not going to win." [Laughs]
Rosanna: I thought the same thing, but for some reason my mother, who's a big fan of Michael McDonald's, was like, "You'll see. He's going to win." And after every performance she'd call me and say, "He's going to win." I was like, "Mom, sorry, but you're, like, in your fifties and... I don't think so." But he won, and I had to eat my words.
Kimberly: I thought he was good, but I didn't feel like he was "it." But as we've seen on Idol, people from their first audition to their last grow so much.
Rosanna: More than anyone else, Taylor kept himself the same from the beginning, and that won people over.
Kimberly: Yeah, everyone wanted him to dye his hair, but you don't make Idols by conforming. So, who are your favorites from Season 6, Week 1?
Kimberly: "Crack Baby."
Rosanna: I like Crack Baby, too.
Kimberly: I hate calling her that, but what else do you say?
Rosanna: She called herself a crack baby. [Editor's note: Crack Baby's real name is Denise.]
Kimberly: She was like wow. She was absolutely amazing, absolutely beautiful, and she's going to look awesome when they give her a makeover and "Hollywood" her up.
Rosanna: We love to see transformations. She's got the talent, so now it's like watching one of those HGTV shows where they give her makeup and hair.
Kimberly: People are like, "You're so good for 16," but she's good for any age. Was there anyone who has the look but the singing isn't quite there, yet has potential?
Rosanna: I like the girl from Barranquilla, Colombia. She definitely has the look. Perla, the one who sang Shakira?
Rosanna: Yeah. I liked her voice, too. She wasn't phenomenal, but she had great stage presence, and she seemed really playful.
Kimberly: I think she definitely has an advantage because Simon was like, "She's great fun! Isn't she great fun?" I'm like, "You're just looking at her bottom," but that's cool.
Rosanna: I think that's what Paula told him!
Kimberly: But she is absolutely stunning, and I think in the right genre she'll be very good. The ones who honestly believe that they're singing well, but we're listening to them and they simply aren't: What's going on there? Is it a case of subjective hearing?
Kimberly: It's their families, I'm telling you. If a whole group of people tells you that you're good at something, and they're trying to be nice by saying, "You should audition for American Idol," when they obviously know that they're not....
Rosanna: I think it's all relative. First of all, if you're a big fish in a little pond, if you come from a small town where no one is really singing at different venues, and you can carry "a" note — and I don't mean many, I mean just one — people think that's the definition of a good singer. The other thing is, I don't know if you've noticed, but if you look at their eyes, there's a little crazy in there! There's something that's off.

Next week, in's Idol Chat: Kimberly and Rosanna weigh in on this week's Memphis and New York City tryouts.

Idol Chat and Reality Chat air exclusively on TV Guide Channel. Click here for complete listings.