“American Idol” Season 10 — the remix.

That’s the catchy label Randy Jackson has affixed to television’s No. 1 show, which returns next week with a radical makeover that feels both bold and somewhat desperate.

Gone is the fiercely blunt Simon Cowell, who left to bring his British hit, “The X Factor,” stateside. Also out are Ellen DeGeneres and Kara DioGuardi.

Now, Jackson, who broke in with “Idol” alongside Cowell and the adorably kooky Paula Abdul, will share the judges panel with Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler — high-profile newcomers being counted on to return some much-needed buzz to the aging franchise.

“I think they’ve really added a different kind of zest and a freshness to it,” Jackson said in a recent conference call. “You take what was already great and you just kind of add a little extra spice to it.”

But the changes don’t stop there. “Idol” also has implemented several new wrinkles to its timeworn format, including a faster elimination process, the abolishment of gender parity among the finalists, and a plan to release music to the public during the course of the show.

In addition, “Idol” will have a snazzy new set, a new air date, a new bandleader and even an in-house mentor: Jimmy Iovine, the chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records (the new label for “Idol” winners) will help the contestants fine-tune their arrangements.

All the retooling comes at a critical time for the show, which suffered a 9 percent ratings decline last season, thanks in large part to a deadly dull group of contestants and the lack of chemistry among the judges. Now a decade old, “Idol” finds itself at a crossroads: Is it ready for a rebirth, or is it ripe for a fall?

“You get the sense that the network and the producers are doing everything in their power to make ‘Idol’ the most important show on television again,” says Monica Herrera, an editor for music industry bible Billboard who calls this a “make-or-break” season.

“‘Idol’ might still be No. 1, but a lot of its relevance has been lost.”

Indeed, a worrisome drop in ratings is one thing, but several years have passed since the show produced a breakout sensation who managed to dominate the music charts and captivate arena-sized audiences. Last year’s winner, Lee DeWyze has sold only 102,000 copies of his debut album to date.

Says Herrera, “It’s crucial that ‘Idol’ make a big splash during, and after, the show.”

Michael Slezak, who covers the show for TVline.com, agrees. He insists “Idol” needs to find a “megastar” on the level of Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, winners of Season 1 and 4, respectively. Such a standout, he claims, would not only restore “Idol’s” legitimacy, but enhance its staying power.

“I think 10 seasons in, people are looking for an excuse not to watch. It’s a huge investment of time and emotion,” he says. “We want to make sure all that phone-calling, speed-texting and stress is not in vain.”

But Kristen Baldwin, who covers the show for Entertainment Weekly, says many “Idol” worshipers aren’t overly concerned with what happens after the season’s winner is doused in confetti.

“I think of it along the lines of a dating show,” she says. “When I watch ‘The Bachelor,’ I don’t care if they break up 10 minutes after the finale. I watch the show for the show.”

To that end, Baldwin approves of most of the changes, especially the demise of gender parity among the singers (“Fans want the best contestants, boy or girl.”) She also advocates the quicker release of music (“It’s the model ‘Glee’ uses — a really savvy move.”)

But will Lopez and Tyler be compelling enough to keep viewers plugged into the process? Baldwin has checked out preview clips of the audition rounds and she likes what she sees so far.

“Everyone expects JLo to be the Paula of the group, but it looks like Steven is going to fill much of that role,” she says of the Aerosmith frontman. “He’s goofy, and there are times when no one seems to know what he’s talking about. I think he’s the wild card. You don’t know what he’s going to say, what he’s going to do, or what he’s going to be on.”

As for Lopez, Baldwin says she’s a “very huggy” cheerleader type along the lines of Abdul. But on the other hand, she brings more of a take-charge tenacity.

“I see her being like the boss, the den mother,” she says. “I think everyone’s a little afraid of JLo.”

Brian Friedman, a choreographer and producer who has served as a judge on “The X Factor,” believes “Idol” may have hit pay dirt with Tyler and Lopez.

“They’re performers, so they know what it takes to get up on stage and wow a crowd,” he says. “Plus, they have name recognition. They’ll bring a whole new fan base to the show.”

Still, Friedman acknowledges that name appeal alone won’t guarantee a dynamic panel.

“The most important thing is chemistry. If they don’t have it, everything falls flat,” he says. ” … I hope they’re outspoken and have some differences of opinion. That makes things more exciting for the viewers.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Lopez said the first post-Simon panel will be more “collaborative,” and Fox promotional ads have made it out to be a kinder, gentler bunch. But that could be a risky strategy. For all his caustic snark, Cowell’s approach worked, and he was a massive part of the show’s identity.

Moreover, says Slezak, Cowell was someone who could deliver “succinct, brutally honest and witty” critiques in an off-the-cuff fashion.

“Simon was the voice of the people,” he says. “He had a very specific skill that not everyone can pull off. Even Ellen, who has been an Oscar host couldn’t do it — and that was a shock to me.”

But the judges are just one piece of the equation. Clearly, “Idol” won’t truly regain its spark unless it gives viewers a charismatic cast of contenders. Many believe that, in recent seasons, the show featured too many earnest singer-songwriter types like DeWyze and Kris Allen, and too few powerhouse pop vocalists along the lines of Clarkson and Underwood.

The talent this season is “amazing,” says Jackson, who predicts a female will take the crown.

“I think it’s better talent than we’ve had in some years,” he adds. “I predict we’ll have a really interesting, successful winner.”

Go and do

WHAT: “American Idol”

WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday


“American Idol” will move to Wednesdays and Thursdays beginning with a two-night premiere event on Wednesday, Jan. 19 (8 to 10 p.m.) and Thursday, Jan. 20 (8 to 10 p.m.). Show stars, from left, are Ryan Seacrest, Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson.

‘American Idol’ season by season

 Prime time’s favorite talent show turns 10 this year. Here’s a look back at the evolution of a show that changed the face of television:

 Season 1 — Substance (Kelly Clarkson) triumphs over style (Justin Guarini), and the Texan has America sobbing as she belts out her coronation song, “A Moment Like This.” Later, it’s the critics who cry when the two finalists star in the big-screen flop, “From Justin to Kelly.”

 Season 2 — It’s an odd-couple battle as Ruben Studdard tops Clay Aiken by a razor-thin margin as the nation’s disparate tastes are put on display. We get the first whiff of scandal when Frenchie Davis is disqualified for modeling on an adult website. Also ousted: Corey Clark (for a police record), who later claims he had an affair with Paula Abdul.

 Season 3 — William Hung gains infamy for butchering “She Bangs” in the audition rounds. Future Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson is eliminated in a controversial vote, sparking cries of racism. Single mom Fantasia Barrino survives it all to win. Her rendition of “Summertime” is still widely hailed as the top “Idol” performance of all time.

 Season 4 — It’s hail, hail rock ‘n’ roll as Bo Bice and Constantine Maroulis bring a rougher edge to the show. Still, it’s a young lady with a country twang, Carrie Underwood, who wins America’s hearts. She has since become “Idol’s” most successful winner in terms of album sales.

 Season 5 — Taylor Hicks does the “Soul Patrol” proud, beating Katharine McPhee in the final. But it’s rocker Chris Daughtry who emerges as the biggest star of the highest-rated “Idol” season to date (an average of 30.6 million viewers). After a shocking Top 4 elimination, he goes on to release a chart-topping debut album.

 Season 6 — With his wild and varied hairstyles, Sanjaya Malakar becomes the show’s mane event. Despite a weak singing voice, he survives for many weeks. Finally, sanity prevails, and Jordin Sparks tops beat-boxer Blake Lewis in the final.

 Season 7 — “Idol” finally allows contestants to play their own instruments, and a rocker, David Cook, finally wins. Cook, who tops David Archuleta, earns attention for his offbeat takes on Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby.” Suddenly, it’s not enough to sing a song well on “Idol,” you have to reinvent it.

 Season 8 — Kara DioGaurdi joins the judges panel, but all eyes are on Adam Lambert. The glam-rocker with the flashy costumes and piercing vocals, is a buzz magnet as the media becomes obsessed with not only his talent, but his sexual preference. Despite — or maybe because of — the Adamania, low-key crooner Kris Allen wins the crown.

 Season 9 — The judges continue to play musical chairs as Paula Abdul leaves, Ellen DeGeneres arrives and a bored Simon Cowell prepares to check out. Ratings take a hit as charisma-free singers take the stage. Lee DeWyze beats Crystal Bowersox in the final.

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