‘American Idol’ finds fourth judge in Kara DioGuardi — and I’m guardedly optimistic

With its ratings in a slow slide and Paula Abdul remaining a galling embarrassment, American Idol finally has done something positive — well, maybe. But at least it’s done something in adding a fourth judge in songwriter Kara DioGuardi.

Yes, I’m hopeful. That’s my nature. But in truth I’ll have to reserve judgment to see if Kara is any better than the agonizingly dull three judges already in place, of if she’ll be just another addled apologist for mediocrity (Paula), another jive-talking blatherer who considers¬† “pitchy” and “aw-ight” as eloquent (Randy Jackson) or another surly, bored disdainer who “critiques” just by referencing interchangeable venues for nobodies, from karaoke bars and wedding parties to cruise ships and Holiday Inns (Simon Cowell).

Hopefully Kara will rise above all that and offer actual pro and con critiques of performances, which Idol has been missing for far too long (or at least since no-nonsense guest judges like Gene Simmons appeared).

But hey, at least Kara enters a field where the bar hasn’t been set high. In fact, it’s quite low. No, it won’t take much for Kara to provide more meat with her comments than the stringy strips of fat Paula, Simon and Randy toss on our plates.

Besides, this show needs some shaking up. Now if only so many guest artists weren’t pushing 70, if only song selections were more contemporary, if only its manipulation of the vote wasn’t so transparent, if only its train-wreck audition rounds didn’t drone for so long, and if only — well, if only Idol did a lot of things differently. But hey, at least it’s got a fourth judge now. And almost by definition, she can only make things better. So here’s to you, Kara. A stale show needs some fresh air.

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