OFFSTAGE: How Will American Idol Fare Without “Mean Music Critic”?

(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that’s happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)

This week’s Newsweek has an excerpt from the new book, American Idol: The Untold Story. And so today (Jan. 19) — just hours before the Simon Cowell-less season ofIdol begins, it’s fitting to think about who will fill his big Mr. Nasty shoes. The story talks about how Cowell was first cast as the “mean music critic” when a UK talent competition was launched around 1999. He turned that gig down and instead hooked up with his friend Simon Fuller to do a similar show. And when it was time for the show to come to America, Cowell nearly backed out because he wasn’t sure his harsh style would go over quite so well in the U.S. But he came along, and Cowell became the “bad cop” to Paula Abdul’s “good cop” at the judges’ table. And now, 10 years later, Cowell is gone, and Randy Jackson remains. Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez will join him on tonight’s premiere, but what no one knows is who will be the bad cop now? Jackson’s a good bet. His years at that table certainly give him the credibility to be a jaded critic. On the other hand, Tyler is a rock star, and God knows rock stars rarely sugar-coat their words. Then again, maybe Jenny from the block will surprise us all and shed her nice girl image and come out swinging. What do you think the chemistry will be like among the judges?

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.