The search is on for the next "American Idol" ... and this year promises to be nuttier than ever.
As season six of the unstoppable hit show premieres Tuesday and Wednesday night on FOX (8 p.m.-10 p.m. EST), "Idol" judge Paula Abdul, who appeared on "FOX and Friends" Tuesday morning, said auditions for 2007 were "beyond wacky."
"It's crazy," she said.
As for as her co-judge Simon Cowell, with whom she shares a notorious love-hate relationship, Abdul said, "I'm becoming really mean to him, and he's becoming nice to me, and it's bugging me. I think he might be trying to psych me out."
Ken Warwick, a series executive producer, said Wednesday's show from Washington state will definitely fall into the wacky category.
"If you don't watch any other episode this year, watch Seattle. Seattle is just the funniest place we have ever been to in our lives: We are shocked and appalled and amazed and hysterical over it," he told the Associated Press.
This season, a Beatles-themed week is possible. Producers are vying for Paul McCartney as guest judge.
Also, do you hate those songs sung by the final two? This year there will be an online songwriting contest to find better hit singles — possibly showcased by past "Idols" and voted on by viewers.
"At the end of it, the country will not only have the singer they want, they'll have the song they want," said Warwick.
Other elements of the new season will be familiar to viewers, including returning host Ryan Seacrest and the sparring among judges Abdul, Cowell and Randy Jackson.
The sparring got an early start: After Cowell was quoted questioning the need for guest judges (Jewel is among this season's), Abdul told the AP that the acerbic Brit "doesn't like sharing the spotlight."
Warwick described the panel as a "dysfunctional family," one that sometimes distresses him with its behavior but which others seem to find consistently entertaining.
Abdul will "say something so damn ridiculous it affects our credibility and I go, 'Oh, my God, I'm embarrassed to hell.' But the next day I'll be talking to someone in the industry and they'll say, 'I loved it!'"
Part of the mix again this year will be guest performers. Stevie Wonder, Barry Manilow, Prince and others have visited in the past and the bar will remain high, Warwick promised.
"We have a huge (episode) when we get down to the six finalists," he said. "I can't divulge too much ... but we're talking big names, big occasion, a big event."
This year, don't expect an obvious winner like Carrie Underwood, who handily took the 2005 contest, to emerge this year. Even the judges agree on that.
"Simon and I have been saying it's more like season one," Jackson told reporters recently. "I think it's going to be someone who grows during competition."
Said Abdul: "There's no clear front-runner as far as I'm concerned."
But rumors abound that a "curly-haired guy" is the early favorite to win.
"There are a few people who stick out — especially a guy," Abdul told the New York Post a few days ago.
"But there's a girl in there too. Based on talent though, vocally, a guy, I think."
She refused to disclose any names. But Abdul described the guy as resembling the curly-haired magician "Penn [Jillette]."
Jackson also mentioned "someone with curly hair" in a recent interview.
And Cowell told the magazine Entertainment Weekly he'd seen two strong contenders during the grueling weeks of auditions that led up to Tuesday's premiere.
"One guy stands out in the crowd and has what I call the likability factor," Simon said. "He's not what I would call the typical 'American Idol' because he's different ... but everyone liked him," Cowell says.
The other is "one girl who's got an incredible voice ... but not much personality at the moment."
Of course, the latest "Idol" buzz has been about the rather loopy interview Abdul gave to a Seattle TV station last week. FOX blamed Abdul's erratic behavior on a severe audio issue and released a statement saying:
"Rather than getting angry about these difficulties, or stopping the tour, Paula forged ahead and decided to have fun with the increasingly challenging situation. Unfortunately, because reporters and viewers were unaware of the situation, her humor was misconstrued."
Abdul told Ellen DeGeneres on her talk show that she was getting one TV station's questions in one ear and another in her other ear and that made it seem like she was in her "own little world."
The buzz on the Internet was that she was drunk, but Abdul says that's not her style. She says in all her years in the business she has never been seen "partying and whooping it up."
FOX News' Lisa Bernhard, the New York Post's Don Kaplan and the Associated Press contributed to this report.