The stage was set for big changes on "American Idol" this year, but for day one of the Season 8 premier at least, it seemed like the same old tune.

Despite the “new focus” we’ve been hearing so much about, first stop Phoenix seemed to bring the usual freak show.

Deep-voiced Elijah Scarlett seemed more apt to voice a new round of All State commercials than to be the next American Idol. Randy Madden described himself as a rock star in a box -- hopefully there’s a padlock on that box. And good old “X-ray” looked more like he was undergoing an exorcism than a singing audition.

VIDEO: Watch the latest 'Idol Chatter' about last night's show.

Despite promises from producers to quit giving face time to crackpots with costumes, those with stalker stares and songwriting books apparently are deal breakers.

And while contestants in crazy clothes were frowned upon this year, apparently it’s thumbs up for guys with stupid “sexual chocolate” tattoos and girls with no clothes on at all.

Though say what you want about Katrina Darell, she did bring on the most interesting part of the night: unveiling the real side of Kara DioGuardi.

How'd the New Girl Do?

The new judge that was supposed to shake things up this season all but blended into the background for most of Tuesday night’s premiere, but the gloves came of once “bikini girl” showed up. I’m not sure what it was about the half-naked brunette that set DioGuardi off, but suddenly there we were, witnessing a Judge vs. Contestant sing off! (I smell a new format.)

The whole thing left me excited to finally have a judge who can show these people how it’s done, and if they don’t listen, she seems more than willing to go "Fight Club" on them too.

Randy and Simon however, seemed a little less enthusiastic about their new colleague’s performance. For all the concern that Paula would have jealousy issues, it was the men who set out to backstab their fellow judge, telling DioGuardi they liked Darell’s clearly subpar rendition of Mariah Carey’s “Vision of Love.”

Which doesn’t make much sense considering Simon especially has nothing to worry about. What DioGuardi has in talent she lacks in wit. Then again, for all the things that were supposed to change on the show, the one thing that did was that Simon didn’t seem to have much wit, either.

The man who once brought us diatribes on suing voice teachers and prize quotes like: “If your lifeguard duties were as good as your singing, a lot of people would be drowning,” couldn’t even muster a “bloody awful” this time around. In other words Simon’s performance tonight was like “ordering a hamburger and only getting the bun.”

Simon, bring back the beef!

Reality Check Winners

Emily Hughes, however showed a lot of steak AND sizzle. The 21-year-old rocker with the old, my-band-doesn’t-know-I’m-here story looked a little like Lucy Ricardo after a failed plot, yet it worked for her. More importantly, with a cool voice and a warm smile, Emily is well on her way to Hollywood, and her band should be well on their way to posting a Craigslist ad for a new singer.

Arianna Afsar’s had no band to worry about, but she will surely be missed at the nursing home where she usually performs. The ideal Idol candidate, this girl is pretty, talented, sweet and has the senior citizen vote down – all things that can get you pretty far in this competition (just ask David Archuletta.)

And this year’s contestant of inspiration has to be Scott McIntyre, who sees only the equivalent of looking through a straw but still manages to sing and play the piano with the best of them. With his lost look, Scott might have a hard time getting through the Hollywood rounds, but if he continues on, his smooth tone and friendly air will make him a sure threat in the later rounds.

And with 36 as opposed to 24 semi-finalists this year, contestants like Emily, Arianna and Scott will have a much better chance of having America decide their fate. Which given what we’ve seen of the judges so far, will be a very welcome change.