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'American Idol' recap: Our second date with the new judges

January 21, 2011 |  9:29 am

Judging_NO_101017_0433 If Wednesday night’s “American Idol” Season 10 premiere was like going on a weird blind date with a nice guy (new judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, collectively) after being protractedly dumped by our obnoxious, abusive yet strangely compelling ex-boyfriend (Simon Cowell) -– were we ready for judges who considered our feelings, called us “baby” and really seemed to listen? -– then Thursday night’s show was like a second date where we may just have started to let our guards down a little to give that new guy a chance.

It turns out that the new guy is not just prettier, more talented and more successful -– with demonstrably less tufty chest hair on display -- than that nasty ex-beau, who maybe, in retrospect, just confused us with his (arguably unearned) air of superiority and British accent, but he's also surprisingly, considering his indisputable beauty and star power, more human. More … real.

And here’s where he got us: He’s funnier, too.

By that, I mean Tyler in particular is funnier. Sure, I rolled my eyes at the odd little hat he wore into the New Orleans auditions on Thursday night’s (mercifully shorter) show. (“You know what they say about a little hat? It’s good for a little ...,” he said, underlining, as he made clear in Wednesday night’s show, that he intends to make teasing the censors his “Idol” trademark.) Then, seconds later, Tyler takes his spot alongside Lopez and returning judge Randy Jackson at the judging table. “We’ve got to change the chair,” he hollers to some unknown lackey. Why? “Well, because it’s ..." And with that, the pretty-lipped, teeny-nosed Aerosmith frontman nearly tips over in his chair, making a spastic gesture that gave me my first guffaw of the season. Then he did it again.

Who doesn’t love a guy who has a sense of humor about himself? And am I just kidding myself that, even if he does ogle many of the pretty young female “Idol” hopefuls (some of them as young as 15 this year), he doesn’t ogle the most obvious ones or in the most obvious ways. (Let’s just overlook that comment he made about Jackson looking down when Lopez stood up to hug a contestant on Wednesday night’s show, a comment that, were the auditions a business meeting, would have earned him a visit from the sexual-harassment committee.) On Thursday night’s episode, he complimented the full lips of a singer who, while fetchingly blond, had hidden her looks behind thick, black, nerd-cool glasses.

He later confused Randy by telling the woman, Sarah Sellers, who made it to Hollywood, "You had me sold from the second you laid eyes on me.” But whatever, Randy confused is better than Randy ruefully shaking his head and “dawg”-ing. Or Randy looking uncomfortable as Kara sits on Simon’s lap (wait, was that Ellen?) or all that other off-putting stuff that happened at the judging table last season that I'm really trying to forget.

However, I don’t know if it’s any worse than Randy, for whom New Orleans is “home turf,” marveling at photos of himself brought by a contestant, Jacquelyn Dupree, who also brought along the “Idol” judge’s high school football coach. (Dupree made it through, possibly for that reason alone.) “God, I was so handsome,” Randy says of his high school self. (Tyler, ever the imp, asks the coach, “Did you ever paddle his ... ?”)

And Lopez? On Thursday night, she was moved to tears (the great big sort of tears that wreak unflattering havoc on less professional makeup jobs) by 23-year-old Paris Tassin, who sang a song she dedicated to the 5-year-old special-needs daughter doctors advised her not to have. "I did that for my daughter," Paris said after she’d sung Carrie Underwood’s “Temporary Home.” "I want to teach her, 'Go for your dreams. Do everything you want to do in life.' "

Paris, who made it through, was the show’s heart-tugging final audition, and, on her way out in a very fetching trench coat, Lopez stopped to say hello to Paris’ daughter, who was in her mother’s arms, and to tell the little girl that her mom sang well.

And the moment -– though, OK, probably (surely?) staged -- seemed real and human.

Despite the fact that their grammar can induce more cringing than perhaps even the most ear-splitting and strange auditions ("I think you sing beautiful,” Tyler told a contestant Wednesday night), the new judges are quickly growing on us. And if we’re not yet ready to make a permanent commitment, we’re at least willing to show up for a third date. And maybe even, next week, move onto a first-name basis.

Other memorable contestants:

Jacee Badeuax: a round-faced 15-year-old who made it through singing Otis Redding's "(Sitting on) The Dock of the Bay."

Gabriel Franks: whose lips apparently helped him win a Tyler-lookalike contest (though Tyler rightly notes Franks’ mouth much more closely resembles Mick Jagger’s) but whose singing won’t get him to Hollywood.

Brett Loewenstern: a teenage misfit with Richard Simmons hair and a hunger for big-time musical success who made it through but actually creeped me out a little with his heartfelt rendition of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody."

Alex Attardo: who says he learned a ton at “American Idol” camp three years ago but apparently didn’t learn how to sing. Golden ticket denied.

Jordan Dorsey: an “excellent” piano teacher, according to a 6-year-old pupil, with an excellent voice to match, makes the cut after singing a changed-up version of “Over the Rainbow.”

Jovany Barreto: an adorable fellow who gets through to Hollywood based on his voice but then opts to show Lopez how highly he regards her by removing his shirt, prompting the two male “Idol” judges to show off their less ripply abs as well. "What the heck just happened here?" Lopez wonders. Good question.

More good questions: What did you think of the episode? What do you think of the new judges? Are you feeling hopeful about Season 10? Are you getting sick of seeing people removing their shirts? Please share your thoughts.


Full Show Tracker coverage of 'American Idol'

 -- Amy Reiter

Photo: Gabriel Franks from Baton Rouge, La., performs in front of the judges on Thursday's "American Idol." Credit: Michael Becker / FX