Will America See a Kinder, Gentler 'Idol' This Season?

What Everyone Is Talking About

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Much was made last week after the seventh season premiere of Fox's singing competition that its notoriously cranky judge, Simon Cowell, appeared to be, well, almost nice. After all, he admitted to liking kittens! And endorsed a group hug! And he told several of the contestants that they were "nice" and "sweet," before giving them a "no" vote. He's even switched from his signature black T shirt to a white one.
Where's the Cowell scowl? Simon shows America his soft underbelly of kindness in Season 7.
Where's the Cowell scowl? Simon shows America his soft underbelly of kindness in Season 7.

Temptress Brown, a 16-year-old girl who plays middle linebacker for her high school football team, is the one most responsible for getting Simon to show America his soft underbelly of kindness. After her amateur attempt to take on Jennifer Hudson's "Dreamgirls" hit "And I'm Telling You" fell flat, and her tears began to fall, Simon oh-so-gently told her she was a sweet girl, and he liked her, and he also admired her love of animals (prompting the 'I love kittens' statement). Then he followed Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson in escorting Temptress out to her family, telling her father that he had a wonderful daughter, and was drawn into the group hug going on.

If you were looking for insensitive behavior, Randy and Paula were your go-to judges. The two of them breaking into hysterical laughter as 22-year-old James Lewis sang "Go Down Moses, Let My People Go," was the cruelest moment of the night. They might be forgiven for not having the back story, but the producers made sure to let the viewers in on the fact that the Philadelphia tour guide had been encouraged by his co-workers to audition, obviously some sort of cruel joke on their part, which the producers were happy to help with.

Simon's nice-guy cred was only reinforced by his treatment of Renaldo Lapuz, who traveled all the way from Reno, Nev., to the audition in Dallas. Saved by the producers until last and dubbed "The Bird Man" for his white feathered cape and hat, he professed to be Simon's biggest fan. He sang an original composition, "We're Brothers Forever," that he dedicated to Simon. Randy and Paula got up to dance around him while he sang, but Simon's reaction? He respectfully told Renaldo that he liked him, thought he was a nice guy, but that he would not be taking him to Hollywood. Whether Simon can maintain his more gracious attitude all the way through Hollywood week remains to be seen.
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