The good people behind "American Idol" will take the stage Tuesday morning at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour to explain their plans for the future of the Fox show, which returns for a 10th season on Jan. 19.
We don't know for sure who'll be there, but we know what they'll say: They're really excited about the changes, they're glad Nigel Lythgoe is back as executive producer, new judges Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler are getting along great with Ryan Seacrest and Randy Jackson and the show has been about the contestants all along.
Here's what we wish they would say:
1. We're sorry.
Last year was a snooze, and we suffered for it with a ratings decline that saw our finale down 18 percent from the previous year. We're still TV's top show, but we're sorry we played it too safe. We're sorry about the last set of new judges we brought on. Kara DioGuardi just sat there, and Ellen DeGeneres is a lovely person but isn't any kind of musical insider.
We're also sorry about the goofy, drip-drop way we unveiled the new judges, which ruined any element of surprise. And we're sorry the show has become a contest to see who can be the most middle-of-the-road instead of showcasing actual musical talent.
We're going to take some actual risks this season.
2. We're throwing out the age limit.
Enough of the kiddie stuff. The median age of our viewers is climbing, so we're going to let the maximum age of our contestants go up as well. Our younger contestants just are modeling themselves on past "Idol" contestants, and a lot of those contestants were — Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson and Carrie Underwood excepted — achingly safe.
3. Despite what you think, the show is going to work.
Yes, we know now people didn't want to hear encouraging words — they've actually been tuning in all along for Simon Cowell and his takedowns and Paula Abdul's blitherings. But Elton John turned us down; so there's no new Cowell. But we do finally have genuine superstars as new judges. And just to make sure no one's too nice, we've got Interscope-Geffen-A&M Records chairman Jimmy Iovine, who steered U2, Dr Dre, Tom Petty and others to superstardom, as our full time in-house mentor We could have encouraged J.Lo to take over the cranky role, but she insisted on trying to seem likeable — and not Paula-kooky likeable — so we've opted for the nuclear option. See No. 5.
4. Everyone has to write a song.
No more karaoke. To ensure the show has at least something to do with songs, we're requiring everyone to write one. They can hum the music for someone else to play, they can do a freestyle rap, they can do some kind of Bobby McFerrin deal. But they have to have enough to say to fill at least one original song.
5. Kanye West gets veto power over the winner.
West has just the kind of bombastic erraticism this troubled show needs. The hip-hop superstar will function as a fourth judge at the final stage by rejecting any winner he deems inauthentic or otherwise lame.
Lew Harris and Dominic Patten contributed to this article.