This season on American Idol, a format tweak means that men are guaranteed half of the 12 finalist slots. But gifted guy crooners are still likely to get shortchanged this season, according to Paula Abdul. ”For the first time ever, we have too many talented males and not enough slots available to them,” the Idol judge told the Television Critics Association winter gathering in Los Angeles. Of course, she wouldn’t be Paula Abdul if she didn’t have something nice to say about everyone. ”This time around, you’re going to have a tough time saying goodbye to these kids. They are that good,” she said. Randy Jackson agreed, calling the current talent pool better than the previous three seasons’ put together. ”I think we’re finding better and better talent every year,” he said. Ever the contrarian, Simon Cowell insisted that Season 2 (the Ruben-vs.-Clay showdown of 2003) was the show’s best ”because it was unpredictable.”
Cowell may not be the only one who thinks his own show’s best days may be behind it. Fox entertainment president Gail Berman said her network wasn’t expecting Idol‘s ratings to be as high as in previous years. ”I think that’s only natural for a fourth-year show,” she told the TV critics’ group. Idol‘s fourth season begins Tuesday night with a two-hour premiere.