Jan. 13, 2009— -- The scandals that have erupted nearly every season since "American Idol" premiered in 2002 have not made a dent in the popularity of the top-rated singing contest reality show.
With its eighth season set to start tonight, "Idol" is expected to easily maintain its No. 1 status.
"Any show that's watched by this many people and involves a competition is going to have controversy," Jim Hibberd, a senior reporter for The Hollywood Reporter, told ABCNews.com. "It tends to help 'Idol' more than hurt it."
Hibberd said scandals involving the voting process have had a negative impact on the show. But "in terms of the judges being too mean or Paula doing something weird," he said, "it just helps the show."
"'Idol' is all about cast and controversy," Mike Darnell, the Fox president of alternative entertainment, told Reuters in an interview last year. "So as soon as you get the right ingredients, the ratings go up again."
Nonetheless, the show's producers have tinkered with the format to combat any possible "Idol" fatigue.
Besides adding a fourth judge, Grammy-nominated songwriter Kara DioGuardi, this season will include an extra week of Hollywood rounds and a larger semifinals with the judges again choosing wild card contestants.
The new season of "Idol" comes on the heels of the recent controversy stirred up by the apparent suicide of former auditioner Paula Goodspeed.