By Michael Slezak
Updated September 20, 2009 at 05:14 PM EDT
Credit: Jack Guy/Fox

The sound of Kara DioGuardi’s speaking voice and the sound of my soul howling in agony created constant cacophony in my living room during American Idol‘s eighth season. Week after week after infuriating week, the “fourth-judge” deflated the high expectations I had initially held for her, dubbing “Cryin'” an “early Aerosmith” track, mislabeling the legendary Studio 54 as “Studio 57,” and worst of all, sticking to the judges’ table party line and yammering on about “package artists” as if she wasn’t a respected songwriter and a one-time major-label artist with a credible point of view and an understanding of the injustices of the modern-day record business. (Excuse that long-winded sentence; it needs to go see a therapist about its rage issues.)

But here’s the thing. Maybe it’s because I’ve had almost four months hiatus from Kara the Terrible’s patented brand of nonsense. Maybe it’s because this summer I got obsessed with Jessie James’ “Wanted,” a song co-written by Kara. Or maybe it’s just because I’m desperately holding out hope that Randy or Kara or Ellen — I don’t really care which one of ’em it is — will become a second, respected voice at the Idol judges’ table, a person who can and will stand up to Simon when he’s wrong, when he says Allison Iraheta isn’t likeable, or when he overlooks Ricky Braddy’s masterful vocals to comment on his lack of “personality.” Whatever the reason, I’m wondering if we should all (blasphemy alert!) wipe the slate clean to start season 9, and give Kara another take.

Part of me wants to say “yes,” and yet girlfriend’s not making it easy. Take Kara’s explanation earlier this month to Larry Flick’s Sirius XM radio show about why Idol fans and critics widely panned her performance during season 8. It was hard for people “to accept the change,” she said. “It was difficult for them to understand why somebody who nobody had ever heard of could kind of come out of nowhere and sit next to these iconic figures. You know, why was I there, what did I do to deserve to be there?” Can I get an America’s Got Talent-style red ‘X,’ complete with obnoxious buzzing sound? If Kara really wants to go from Bust List to Must List for season 9, she needs to stop blaming the victims (the American Idol nation) and understand that she was the true criminal, charged with (among other things) banging the table and screaming “You give us all hope!” after Danny Gokey sang “Hero.”

In all seriousness, though, the Idol machine worked overtime last year to educate the public about Kara’s songwriting and production credentials, and I don’t think even the most change-phobic Idoloonie was so enamored of Paula or Randy’s feedback that they wouldn’t have accepted a whip-smart, savvy panelist to break up their weekly “for me, for you”-“you look beautiful tonight” litany. The real problem was that Kara’s “hundreds and hundreds of words, signifying nothing” approach to critique cut into airtime for Kris, Adam, Allison, and all of season 8’s other talented contestants, without adding anything entertaining or useful to the Idol experience. It’d be like having someone swipe a chocolate molten cake off your plate and replace it with a lukewarm glass of tap water.

Perhaps more disturbingly, though, Kara told New York magazine earlier this week that she’s shopping a reality show called Dropped, which will take “the best acts that have been dropped and [give] them a second chance.” Um, Kara, sweetie, here’s the thing: Dropped actually sounds like an interesting concept for a show, but before you get distracted with side projects, you’ve got to handle your Idol situation. Otherwise, you might find that proposed show title all too prescient when Idol‘s tenth season becomes a no-Kara zone in 2011.

What do you think, fellow Idol watchers? Are you holding out hope that Kara’s performance will improve when the show returns in January, or are there “no boundaries” to describe her patented brand of incompetence? Or maybe you’re one of those rare folks who proudly wears a Team Kara T-shirt! Share your thoughts in the comments section below, and don’t forget to follow my on Twitter @EWMichaelSlezak!

Photo Credit: Jack Guy/Fox