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‘American Idol’ Kicks Off With Judges In Spotlight

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(L-R) Musicians Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, producer Randy Jackson, and host Ryan Seacrest (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

(L-R) Musicians Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, producer Randy Jackson, and host Ryan Seacrest (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

PASADENA (CBS) – When “American Idol” debuts on Wednesday, the spotlight won’t be on the auditioning hopefuls looking to become the next Lee DeWyze.

Instead, the focus will be on the show’s new judges.

The first look at the new lineup, featuring Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler alongside judges’ table veteran Randy Jackson, will come during the Fox show’s two-night season premiere event.

READ MORE: What to Expect from New “Idol”
PICTURES: Last Year’s “Idol” Finale

Changes to the show’s format were announced during last weeks’ TCA tour. They include extending the “Hollywood Week” auditions to cut the semifinalist field to a smaller number, 20, which gives the voting audience fewer singers to choose as finalists, and allowing contestants to perform their own material.

The judges will also choose “Wild Card”‘ finalists again, though producer Nigel Lythgoe said after the conference that it hadn’t been determined how many finalists the panel would pick.

Lopez shared her excitement over being on the show during an interview with former judge Ellen DeGeneres, set to air Tuesday on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

“We’re just having so much fun,” Jennifer says. “Steven’s a riot. Randy, obviously, is kind of walking us through it, since he’s been there for 10 years now. … You really get to use everything you know and help people. We get to help these kids who are just starting off in the business.”

But while no one seems eager to follow in departed judge Simon Cowell’s “villain” footsteps, that doesn’t mean the prospective contestants have gotten nicer too.

“Some people just get crazy,” Lopez said. “They can’t take the ‘no’ for an answer. We’ve had weird moments.”

Tyler, however, told “Late Show” host David Letterman that he prefers the way he became famous to the “Idol” road to stardom.

“I always thought that in order to become an American Idol, or any kind of idol, you have to pay your dues,” Tyler said, referring to the years of national touring he did with Aerosmith. “But, today’s a different world.”

But, “This way is more fun,” he adds of the “Idol” process. “It’s more excruciating – we get to put ‘em through hell and they do it, and they come out the worm-hole looking good. You’ll see.”

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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