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Tuesday: ‘American Idol’

[IMG:L]American Idol — 8/7c on Fox

It’s finally here–no, not the Democratic debate from Las Vegas (although that airs on MSNBC at 8/7c).

Season 7 of American Idol kicks off tonight–as if you didn’t already have a months-days-hours-minutes-seconds countdown going–and truly not a moment too soon.

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As is touched upon in this space on an almost daily basis, we are virtually without any newness on TV these days due to the ongoing writers strike.

Couple that fact with Idol’s already massive viewership and what do you get? A likely record-setting premiere in the ratings department.

But business/statistics aside, millions of people–primarily teens, yes, but you’d be surprised how many other generations tune in–are psyched as hell to vote an aspiring singer into superstardom…or Sanjaya-dom. And casual TV watchers, presumably chomping at the bit for anything that is not a rerun, will get swept up in Idol-mania more than ever before.

It all begins tonight, with auditions from Philadelphia being presented by Ryan Seacrest, judged by Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson, and jeered by Simon Cowell; tomorrow night’s two-hour episode shows how Dallas’ auditions went.

For those with self-control who missed last season, here’s a quick recap: Antonella Barba sparked controversy when nude photos purported to be her surfaced on the Internet (she was eliminated in the latter stages of the top 24); Sanjaya Malakar ignited a nationwide to-vote-or-not-to-vote debate by exhibiting outlandish hairdos and “hideousness,” according to Cowell (Sanjaya finished seventh overall); in the finale, Jordin Sparks edged out beatboxer Blake Lewis to become the youngest-ever American Idol, at age 17.

In its six seasons, Idol has made stars/award winners out of Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer HudsonChris Daughtry and others. Who’ll it be this year? Or is who doesn’t win the bigger appeal?

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