Sure, they judge the nation's biggest talent contest, ''American Idol'' (Fox; 8-9 p.m. Tuesdays, 8:30-9 p.m. Wednesdays), but the fearsome Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson seem to lose a bit of their authority when no one's performing. EW.com caught up with the trio at an ''AI'' party, where -- arms entwined -- they engaged in some ''Idol'' chatter (and, in Paula's case, shared a friendly lick or two with Simon). And no, we didn't make up that last part.
Okay, guys, there has to be someone you're ''feeling'' as a winner.
Simon Cowell No one.
Randy Jackson We're feeling ourselves, the judges. We're feeling the judges.
Cowell As Paula said to me today, this show is actually about us.
Jackson Yeah, it is. Finally!
Cowell And I disagreed. I said no, it's about finding talent.
Jackson We could perform. We could do the soft shoe. Simon's good at doing soft shoe and tap.
Paula Abdul He can actually cut a rug.
Cowell Oh, no. You won't EVER see me perform.
Who do you think has the star quality you look for in the next American Idol?
Cowell Fantasia [Barrino] and La Toya [London].
Jackson La Toya. I think maybe Diana DeGarmo.
Abdul Jasmine [Trias].
Cowell Jennifer [Hudson], and Jasmine, too.
Abdul Oh, all of them. Look at us. We're all feeling the love tonight.
Jackson Everyone on the list. We've got a lot of love.
How do this season's contestants compare to last season's?
Cowell The same rules apply. There are two good people, and the rest are also-rans.
Jackson But I think this bunch is much more wacky and crazy.
Cowell Yeah, they are wacky.
Jackson I think it's going to be more exciting, at least.
What do you think this group needs to do to improve?
Abdul They need to take risks and push boundaries with their vocal style. Basically, they need to find and define their styles.
How do you feel about '40s throwback John Stevens?
Jackson I don't know if he has personality or not, but he's definitely unique.
Cowell He has no personality. None.
Jackson No personality. He's like this [blank face]. But you know what? I think there's a lot of those Harry Connicks and Josh Grobans around. At 16, he's really young, so in a couple years he could probably drop out of the '40s thing.
Abdul He's so innocent and sweet.
Jackson So innocent and so young.
Cowell That'll change.
Jackson He'll become hard and mean messing around with Cowell.
Abdul No, he won't!
Um, Paula, Simon, what's going on here? Paula, you appear to have stuck Simon's fingers in your mouth.
Cowell She's licking me. [To Paula:] You're licking me!