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"American Idol" Up To Its Old Tricks

    Season eight of Fox’s American Idol did everything it could to connect to past glories before moving forward. Its opening sequence, a montage of winners, losers and other memorable moments from seasons past, was like a montage of the show’s greatest hits.

    Actually, it wasn’t like it. That’s exactly what it was.

    But it served its purpose, reminding viewers of the potent ingredients – exhilaration, humiliation, talent, surprise – that have made this talent competition, for years now, the most popular series on television.

    For the new season, which began last night and continues tonight at 8 ET, Idol wasted no time in introducing the show’s new judge – songwriter Kara DioGuardi – and pulling the same strings that have worked for years.

    The sentimental story to close the opening show? Try this: a visually impaired contestant who is led into the audition room to sing before the judges, and whose bravery impresses them as much as his voice.

    Classically awkward candid moment? After that contestant wins a yellow ticket to the Hollywood round, host Ryan Seacrest celebrates by raising his own palm to offer a high-five – then sheepishly realizes, as it hangs there unacknowledged, that the guy can’t see it.

    Memorably odd-voiced talent? The guy with the speaking voice so deep, he makes Darth Vader sound like a soprano – but with a singing voice that was hesitant, quiet and had little relation with actual notes.

    Memorably feisty talent? “Bikini Girl,” who showed up dressed that way, and who enraged the lady judges by dismissing DioGuardi’s singing voice, while DioGuardi and Paula Abdul poked fun at the contestant’s wardrobe choice. Predictably, and amusingly, the ladies voted no, while Randy Jackson and an amused Simon Cowell voted yes. This season, in case of a tie, Cowell wins, so Bikini Girl is on to Hollywood.

    As always, Cowell knows what makes this show fun to watch. In season eight, he’s at it again.