It's not likely that I'll ever return to weekly viewing of American Idol, but with this year's judging crew, you can at least say the show is watchable again. None of this year's contestants do much for me, but if nothing else the show is worth watching for Harry Connick's approach to judging. It's not that Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez are horrible (although Lopez clearly does everything she can to avoid saying anything negative), but Connick really takes the show to a new level. He's honest, he provides good and constructive advice (even when he thinks a performance leaves a lot to be desired) and he takes the job seriously. Just watch the judges when the camera pans to them during a performance - Lopez more often than not will be trying to dance to the song, Urban will have a bemused look on his face, but Connick will clearly be listening, furrowed brow and all, and doing his best to take in every nuance (or lack thereof) of the performance.
And that's appropriate, because setting aside the fact that the show is created for our entertainment, it is also serious business. Winning American Idol no longer guarantees stardom for a singer (if it ever really did), but it certainly opens up a lot of doors that otherwise would have remained closed. It certainly increases the potential for stardom, and it's clear that Connick sees his role as one that brings with it a level of responsibility that only Simon Cowell understood in the past.
So kudos to Harry Connick, Jr., whose participation more than makes up for the fact that, for some reason known only to Fox, Randy Jackson still has a role on the show.