Credit: Chad Buchanan/Getty Images

In what already looks like the biggest format shakeup in American Idol history, Fox announced this morning that the show’s eighth season will feature a fourth judge. It’s Kara DioGuardi, a songwriter/producer who’s worked with past Idol champs Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, and Taylor Hicks (as well as working with Davids Cook and Archuleta, Clay Aiken, Bo Bice, and Katharine McPhee), not to mention Avril Lavigne, Pink, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, Natasha Bedingfield, Jewel, Marc Anthony, and a host of others. Plus, she has some contest-judging experience, from MTV’s short-lived Idol-esque show The One. Her own attempt at singing stardom, in the duo Platinum Weird with Eurythmic Dave Stewart, didn’t really take off, but her credentials as a hitmaker for others are solid, at least.

We’re already hearing from Idol producers that a fourth judge creates a dynamic on Idol shows in other countries that’s missing here, and that the gender imbalance at the judging table will now be rectified. I wonder whether that means DioGuardi will be just another sympathetic shoulder for the contestants when Simon and Randy are mean to them. I also wonder whether DioGuardi is being groomed as an eventual replacement for Paula, with her introduction this year as a face-saving way to ease Paula out gracefully.

I’m not sure the show really needs a fourth judge, someone whose comments will only cut into the already too-short performance segments. I don’t think Idol singers or voters at home need more guidance; the contestants need more singing time than 90 seconds per tune, so that we can better evaluate their performances ourselves. Rather than more advice, they need better advice, but at least DioGuardi has some practical experience in that department.

Tell us, PopWatchers, what do you think of the addition of DioGuardia? Will she be a welcome presence at the table? Will she crowd Paula out? Will she be a superfluous time-waster? Is she what the show needs to rise out of its recent doldrums? Sing out, below.

addCredit(“Kara DioGuardi; Chad Buchanan/Getty Images”)