Richard Rushfield contemplates it:
The how-does-the-show-survive-without-Cowell talk was probably overstated to begin with. Before a show begins, people will always look backward at the seasons past, but once it starts, they engageor don'twith what's in front of them. That said, Tyler's unhinged goofy energy has seemingly wiped Cowell's memory off the boards. And Jennifer Lopez thus far has proved a magnetic presence, doing nothing to embarrass herself, if little yet to truly distinguish.
The challenge ahead:
In the end, the season's true test won't play out until many months after the winner is declared; if the show can, once again, as it did so often in its first five years, produce a true star, Idol's comeback will be one of legend.
I've been sucked right back in, not just by the surprising wit and judgments of Tyler, but also Randy Jackson being forced to say more than "Little pitchy, dawg. Didn't work for me. Sorry." Then there's the actual talent. This season they cut down the freak show of the early stages - which had begun to seem like exploitation of the socially maladjusted or psychologically ill. And the quality and diversity of the voices is really, in my view, the best of the entire run of the show. And of course, I back the bear with the bass.