For nine seasons of "American Idol," Simon Cowell anchored the judges' table as a rotating cast of industry personalities cycled in and out. Paula Abdul headed for the exit after eight years, Kara DioGuardi and Ellen DeGeneres came and quickly went, and then Cowell himself officially departed after at least one season in which he seemed to have grown somewhat bored of the competition show.
Now Randy Jackson is the last remaining original judge and has commandeered Cowell's chair at the end of the judges' table. But with season 10 set to premiere on Wednesday, he's still not totally comfortable.
"It is a little weird, and sometimes I look down the table and I go, 'Kara? No. Paula? No. Ellen? No. Simon? No. Where am I?' " Jackson told MTV News recently.
"American Idol," he admits, is a vastly transformed show this season. Various rules have been changed, producers talk openly about injecting new vigor into the competition, and two new faces in Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler have joined up as judges.
"It's just a different kind of show," said Jackson. "Simon is irreplaceable. People have been saying, 'Who's going to be the mean one?' Simon is still the mean one."
Yet as much as things will change this season, other elements will remain the same: sometimes the judges will be of one mind about a contestant, and at others their opinions will diverge — perhaps with a quarrel.
"Jennifer, Steven and I all agree a lot [and] we disagree a lot," he said. "You're going to see all flavors of the rainbow because we all think sort of the same way because we're music industry professionals."
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