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American Idol 'kinder' as J-Lo replaces Cowell

It's a kinder American Idol without Simon Cowell.

American TV's top show has returned with a makeover for its 10th season on Fox. Cowell, everyone's favourite villain, is gone as a judge.

So are Kara DioGuardi and Ellen DeGeneres, replaced with the star power of Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler.

In a break from the past the first, two-hour episode accentuated the positive.

Past shows featured Cowell's biting putdowns. But last night the first three contestants shown all made it through to Hollywood.

And the New Jersey auditions ended with the daughter of a cancer survivor from Staten Island and a boy from the Bronx who kept to his dreams despite time spent living with his family in a homeless shelter.

Both are only 16, and both were given go-aheads by the judges.

"It's our 10th season, and everything feels brand new," host Ryan Seacrest said.

It's all a gamble for American Idol, no longer as dominant in the pop firmament as it once was.

Last season's finale was seen by 24m people, down 5m from the big night the season before.