In an effort to bring some more "credibility" to the show, fewer freaks (Mary Roach), delusional dorks (Michael Sandecki), and hot messes (William Hung) will be featured during the auditions.
VERDICT: Boo! Don't the producers realize that we voyeurs want to see as many sad clowns as possible? Guess not.
With Hollywood Week finally becoming Hollywood Weeks, we'll actually get to know the contestants and their stories, unlike in years past when the Top 12 could easily consist of strangers.
VERDICT: Yay! Remember when Kelly Clarkson came out of nowhere in the final few weeks of the first season? She had virtually zero TV time until the finals. Blasphemy! Thankfully, that shouldn't happen again.
For the first time since the show's second season, the judges will select the final three contestants that will comprise the Top 12.
VERDICT: Debatable. As much as I don't trust the public opinion (hello, Taylor Hicks), I think the judges have enough power as is. Shouldn't the viewers get to hand out the golden tickets? I dunno. This could be very good... or very, very bad.
With the semi-final round being comprised of 36 contestants -- as opposed to the usual 24 -- and with the judges determining the wild-cards, the makeup of the Top 12 won't necessarily be split evenly among males and females.
VERDICT: Finally! If more women (for example) deserve to make the finals, let them in! I think everyone is tired of the 6/6 split. The best singers should be in the finals. Not cute talentless hunks (Ace Young), not grandma-selected safe bets (Kevin Covais), and definitely not Sanjaya.
The new kid on the block is songwriter-producer Kara DioGuardi, the mastermind behind Xtina's "Ain't No Other Man," Gwen Stefani's "Rich Girl," and Pink's latest hit, "Sober." Will she rely on her professional experience like Randy? Will she battle with Simon? Will she ultimately replace Paula? (All parties deny this rumor). Will she tell it like it is and risk hurting the contestants' feelings?
VERDICT: Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Well, at least we hope so.
Shorter Results Show
Wednesday night's results show will be pared down from one hour to 30 minutes.
Rumor has it that viewers will no longer have to witness pop tarts trash country classics, crooners butcher Broadway tunes, and divas destroy Big Band standards.
VERDICT: Phew! We can handle Billboard's biggest hits, "songs from the year you were born" night and maybe a "movie soundtrack" theme, but an evening with Burt Bacharach must be banished!
In a perfect world, Season 8's finalists won't have to pretend to know who Neil Diamond is, let alone sing songs from his infinite oeuvre. Same goes for Andrew Lloyd Webber and anyone else with liver spots.
VERDICT: This can't happen soon enough. Did the producers ever think to invite anyone other than an octogenarian to mentor the finalists? It's time. It's time to tell Kelly Clarkson that in order to help her with her comeback, she needs to remember where she came from and make a triumphant return to the "Idol" stage. It's time to enlist Rihanna and Chris Brown -- no matter the cost. It's time!