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"America loves Paula. She's an integral part of this program. I hope she's there until the show goes off the air. Period."
—-American Idol producer Ken Warwick

AMERICAN IDOL EIGHTH SEASON READY TO ROLL

Fourth Judge, Wild Card Round Added, Abdul Remains
American Idol is ready to unveil its eighth season on Fox with some format tweaking.

The show begins airing Jan. 13 with three weeks of audition episodes, with the Hollywood rounds lasting for two weeks, starting Feb. 3. The final 36 will be revealed on Feb. 11, with audience voting on Feb. 17.

Songwriter Kara DioGuardi joins longtime judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell this year, who will get a “wild card” round on March 5, after which the Top 12 finalists will be set.

Executive producer Ken Warwick admits the show, which suffered a dip in ratings last year prior to the finale, is looking to change things up.

"By the final eight, we'd be living with these kids for weeks already,” he said. “If any of them don't have fantastic characters, it got a bit boring."

Warwick admitted the auditions in San Juan did not go well, but that is part of the show’s appeal. "If I set up this system where all the bad ones never got seen, I'd have a pretty boring show on my hands."

And while ratings dipped approximately 7% over the course of the show last year, only to rebound for the final, Warwick says it's all part and parcel of a long-running series.

This year, there will be more behind-the-scenes drama from the contestants as they proceed through the show—an element from early seasons that had been downplayed recently.

Warwick insisted there are no plans to kick off the often-controversial Paula Abdul.

"America loves Paula. She's an integral part of this program. I hope she's there until the show goes off the air. Period."

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