This Week's Cover: An exclusive 'American Idol' roundtable with Randy, Steven, Jennifer, and Ryan | EW.com

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This Week's Cover: An exclusive 'American Idol' roundtable with Randy, Steven, Jennifer, and Ryan

With Simon Cowell’s ballyhooed exit (to bring his British talent show The X Factor Stateside this fall), Ellen DeGeneres departing after just one season, and Kara DioGuardi’s contract left in the dustbin, American Idol is suddenly in its most uncertain condition since its June 2002 debut. But in EW’s exclusive roundtable interview with host Ryan Seacrest, returning judge Randy Jackson, and new judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, Idol’s new team doesn’t appear to be sweating Life After Simon.

“It’s aged the show down a bit,” deadpans Seacrest of Cowell’s absence, while Jackson laughs. “There are less clouds of smoke. We start earlier. There’s less – what is that English dish he always ordered for lunch? Shepherd’s pie? He loves shephrerd’s pie.”

“No, it’s the blood pudding,” jokes Jackson, before he turns serious.

“Look, it’s definitely been interesting. We definitely miss [Simon], but it’s a different kind of vibe. It’s a different kind of energy now. And I think in season 10 the show actually really needed it….It’s not about replacing him or any of the others: Paula, Ellen, Kara, anybody else. People have been saying to us, ‘Who’s mean?’ We’ve all traded off on that because I think you have to always give people the truth, no matter what.”

“We’re more of a collaborative judging group,” adds Lopez. “We’re always leaning over to each other and saying, ‘Oh my God, I think she’s good.’ ‘Oof, I don’t get it.’ ‘You don’t like it?’ I mean, not in a way where it becomes disrespectful to [the contestant’s] moment, but we discuss things. We just have a totally different style than any of the past judging tables.”

And what has Tyler made of all the talent he’s seen auditioning for the show? “It’s just astounding,” he says. “We throw the drift net out and look what comes up? Gold. [I’m] crying, honestly, from someone who hit the notes so sweetly and beautifully, not just that it’s the end of the day and thank God this motherf—er is the last one. Not that.”

“See?” smiles Seacrest. “It’s going to be an all-new show.”

For more with the new Idol team — including why Lopez believes the show needs more David Archuleta moments, how Tyler feels about Kid Rock and Joe Perry’s unkind comments about him taking the Idol gig, and what Jackson thinks is the reason Ellen DeGeneres ultimately didn’t connect with the other judges — as well as EW’s exclusive first-hand peek inside the Los Angeles Idol auditions, pick up the new Winter TV Preview issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Friday, January 7.

Originally posted January 6 2011 — 9:00 AM EST

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