Jan. 19, 2011 -- If Steven Tyler's recent remarks about snorting Lunesta and partaking in a backstage three-way are any indication of the kind of judge he'll be on "American Idol," then the country's most-watched show is in for a wild ride.
As Tyler touted his new role on "Idol," which premieres tonight, during interviews with David Letterman and Howard Stern, it was clear the Aerosmith frontman had not signed a morals clause with the family-favorite show or even been coached on what not to say.
On Monday, Tyler admitted to Letterman that his 2009 fall from the stage, that resulted in a broken shoulder and required 19 stitches in his head, was caused by drug abuse.
"A couple years ago, I was [snorting] Lunesta because of some problems with my feet," he said. "That shows you what kind of a drug addict I was, only the finest for me... I was looking for any excuse to get high."
Lunesta is a prescription sleep aid. Tyler checked into rehab four months later, and while he was there, he sent his manager a text telling him to find him a new gig, the rocker told Howard Stern on Tuesday. Two days after checking out of rehab, he was writing a song with DioGuardi when she suggested he might make a good judge. Apparently, she passed the word on to the show's producers, who contacted Tyler.
Tyler also took pains to say that his role on 'Idol' does not mean the death of Aerosmith.
"'Idol' is going to take this band up 10 notches," Tyler said, adding that the band is already booked for November and December.
Comparing Tyler to Mick Jagger, Stern quizzed the 62-year-old rock legend on why he took the job as judge. "You don't even need 'American Idol,'" Stern said.
"I needed a rest for my feet and it was just something else I could get into," Tyler said, referring to a series of surgeries and post-operative physical therapy that he underwent to correct long-time foot injuries caused by his trademark stage moves.
Tyler has since admitted that he became addicted to prescription painkillers as a result of his foot pain.
"I wanted to see if this would be a good fit," he said about "Idol," adding that his contract allows him to "bail the first year if things aren't good."
"I just thought what the hell," he added. "I get to sit next to Jennifer Lopez. She's an alpha female."
Though he wouldn't tell Stern how much he's making, he did say it's "more" than the reported $12 million that Lopez is getting.
Not bad for a guy who admits he never watched the show because he didn't like the idea of someone being called an idol if they didn't pay their dues working the club circuit. But, Tyler said the caliber of talent has "made him tear up."
And he seems to be enjoying himself and what he calls his "dream team." "I got new hair and new makeup," he said. "I feel like a rock star."
Asked about the media comparing him to former judge Paula Abdul, Tyler laughed, saying it's because of the rehab rumors that dogged Abdul.
But he added that he'll be no Simon Cowell either. "You can't say you suck," he told Stern. "Simon got off on doing that. My heart's not like that... I'm not into putting people down. I'm into bringing them up."
He said Lopez brings the "street cred." And, this being Stern's show, they discussed Lopez' "big tukus."
"I'm big on a not big tukus," said Tyler, who also discussed a three-way encounter that took place backstage during a musical break in one of his concerts, "and hers was not so big and I like it."
As for the rest of the "Idol" team, "I promise you I'll have Ryan (Seacrest) in a blonde wig and a bra before this season is over," Tyler joked, adding seriously, "He's Dick Clark. He's in charge. He's that entitity -- just like the Dog (Randy Jackson).
Some other changes you can expect to see tonight, from music editor Shirley Halperin, who profiled the new season for The Hollywood Reporter.
A New Night
You read it right, "Idol" will premiere this year on Wednesday night, with results on Thursday -- a switch from its Tuesday and Wednesday time slot the last nine years.
Could it be because "Dancing with the Stars," which airs Monday and Tuesday nights, was nipping at the heels of that talent contest and even outdrew it for the first time last April?
Halperin says competition is part of the reason for the night switch. But it also provides a cover for falling ratings. "If they dip, producers can blame it on the night change," she said.
Halperin also believes Fox is trying to nurture its other big moneymaker, "Glee," which will be showcased on Tuesday, instead of following "Idol."
A New Look
"Idol" goes through a stage makeover every three years and this year, Halperin expects substantial changes.
"They just want to ramp everything up," she said.
Possible changes include a snazzy new set, moving the band to the typical orchestra setting, even new camera angles to engage viewers.
If there's enough drama, producers may bring back the "Idol" mansion, putting contestants under one roof and showing the audience their lives off stage.
The show could also move a lot faster by shortening the elimination process. Rather than a top 24 semi-final round, it could go directly to 12 finalists or 15 depending on what producers finally decide.
A New Diva
If the reports about contract negotiations with Jennifer Lopez are to be believed, then there's a new diva on the judging panel.
But Halperin, who spoke to a season 10 contestant, said J Lo is hardly a diva. "She is really nurturing, gives good advice and is warm and empathetic -- what we wanted Paula to be but less kooky," she said.
The diva, it turns out, is Steven Tyler. "He requires a lot of breaks for makeup and hair touch-ups," Halperin said. "It's interesting to note that the guy with long hair requires as much fussiness in makeup and hair as J Lo."
But Halperin expects a breath of fresh air from Tyler, the judge, who has never before seen the show but has one of the best voices in the music industry.
"He's the most unpredictable," she said. "The more he could potentially riff and speak off-the-cuff the better."
That doesn't mean going back to his old ways, which landed him in rehab, either. "His sobriety is 100 percent apparent," said Halperin, who spoke to show insiders.
New Voting Rules
Producers have until March to iron out voting issues before the first audience votes are cast.
One experiment they may try, Halperin said, is to add online voting, which is not only easier but solves issues with time zones.
Another digital move that could bring in more votes is allowing contestants for the first time to use social media, like Twitter and Facebook.
More Music Business Cred
Last year's "Idol" winner Lee DeWyze sold only 98,000 copies of his debut album.
If winners keep up that track record, the show will continue to lose credibility within the industry. To keep that from happening, the show is shoring up its original premise, which is the search for a superstar. "Idol" has broken its partnership with Sony and is now working with Universal Music Group and Jimmy Iovine, chairman of UMG's Interscope Geffen A&M Records.
Iovine is a veteran producer who has worked with everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Lady Gaga. For "Idol," he has assembled a "dream team" of producer-songwriters including Rodney Jerkins, who made hits for Janet Jackson, and Timbaland, who did the same for Justin Timberlake.
Though it's still being discussed how these hit-makers' original songs will be used, it's a sure bet that there will be a lot more hand-holding with contestants when it comes to choosing the best songs to suit their talents.
"You're you going to see career shaping as the show is happening," Halperin said.