Jan. 20, 2011 -- There really is no replacement for Simon Cowell.
Randy Jackson took Cowell's seat at the judges' table, alongside freshman judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez, for the 10th season of "American Idol," but it was clear that not one of them was out to replace the so-called "mean" judge.
After months of speculation about who would replace Cowell and fellow judges Ellen DeGeneres and Kara Dioguardi, who left at the end of last season, the new judges made their debut in an opening worthy of the "American Idol" finale.
Following a montage of headlines, host Ryan Seacrest made the announcements on the main stage of the show before hundreds of screaming fans.
"I took this gig because I love music," Tyler said in the opening minutes of Wednesday night's premiere.
"I think I'm going to be compassionate," Lopez said. "I'm not in the business of crushing spirits."
"It's a different table," Jackson said, "but you know what? It's hot. Let's go baby."
As Jackson led the way, showing a more powerful role than before, during opening auditions in New Jersey, it at first appeared that Tyler and Lopez were competing for who could be nicer.
But it was Lopez, who, reminiscent of Paula Abdul, had a hard time saying no and seemed to hold back her harshest criticism, perhaps to remind viewers that despite being a triple threat singer-dancer-actress, she really is just Jenny from the Block.
"Oh this is awful," she lamented when it came to letting down a young woman from the Ivory Coast. "This is not a good feeling. Why did I sign up for this? I want to go home."
Tyler was more of a straight shooter: "You have no notes," he told the woman, after she performed Madonna's "Dress You Up in My Love."
Tyler, on the other hand, had plenty of them, punctuating the auditions with his signature scream and sometimes singing and tapping along with the contestants.
The show played up Tyler's reputation as a ladies man with a montage of his comments directed at some of the more attractive female contestants.
"You're Italian with a tattoo?" he said. "I love you already." To another contestant, he flirted, "Where is your pitchfork, you little devil."
When Lopez, showing her maternal side, walked from behind the desk to hug a young woman who grew up idolizing her, Tyler looked at Jackson and said, "You looking down."
His off-the-cuff remarks occasionally veered toward seamy. When Lopez sent through a sweet Southern 16-year-old girl, complimenting her on her skirt, Tyler quipped, "Yeah, just the right amount showing."
The rocker also showed his softer side. After greenlighting the first contestant for Hollywood, he said, "We have to water this flower."
And when another woman got down on her knees, danced, cried and begged the judges to send her through to the next round, Tyler caved.
"That was unbridled enthusiasm," he said. "I'm going to personally work that into something good."
In the end, the judges gave golden tickets to 51 contestants to proceed to the next round. But it was the last contestant who brought back the show's main mission -- to find the next superstar.
After sharing his heart-tugging story of spending part of his childhood in a homeless shelter in the Bronx, 16-year-old Travis Orlando performed for the judges.
"I think you sing beautiful," Tyler told him, amid a unanimous chorus of yes's.