Returning 2009: American Idol

FOX, Tuesdays and Wednesdays beginning Jan. 13 and 14

New judge Kara DioGuardi is sure to shake up the ratings stalwart’s solid but sagging formula. She brings with her a stellar career as a songwriter and producer for the likes of Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani and Kelly Clarkson, along with a headstrong reputation. So bring it on, Simon!

Confident as she is, DioGuardi admits there has been a learning curve in her new, unexpected role. “I’m the new kid on the block,” she says. “I’m trying to learn my way and figure out where exactly I’m going to be in terms of, ‘Am I going to be really harsh?’ … It’s the beginning stages, so if you see just a little something [in a contestant], you’re like, ‘You know what? I’ll give you another shot.’ But definitely I’m going to get way more strict as we go on, especially when we’re in Hollywood towards the end. It’s going to be, ‘Better get your stuff together or you’re out of here.'”

One of the most interesting aspects of the four-judge system will be seeing how they break tie votes — and whether there will be a newly imposed limit as to how many Davids can make the final cut.

Credit: Michael Becker/FOX