Season 8 of American Idol kicked off in Phoenix

American Idol kicks off Season Eight without missing a beat: new judge Kara DioGuardi fits in smoothly; the contestants (as usual) run the gamut of the good, the bad and the ugly; and the editing keeps it all entertaining. Idol is every show wrapped up into one: a comedy for those who enjoy the bad auditions, a reality show for those who prefer the sob story personal profiles and the backstage drama of the Hollywood section, and a variety show for those who love the judges’ banter, the taped bits and of course the singing.

People who insist the show is the ruin of the music industry don’t know their history: talent shows have been around forever, from Arthur Godfrey on the radio to the Apollo to Star Search. And American Idol is above all a talent show, with audiences looking for a contestant they love and rooting for them. Finalists have won Oscars and Grammys, been on Broadway, received critical acclaim and sold millions of records.

The opening montage included Clay Aiken several times, giving him as much (if not more) screen time than any other previous Idol contestant.

Other than the Olympics, what was the last network program of any kind to do bigger numbers than the season premiere of American Idol last night? Yep, the season finale of American Idol back in May the showdown between the two Davids scored 31.7 million viewers. This show isn’t going anywhere.