Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. Picture: Reuters

The new-look American Idol kicks off on Australian television tonight hot off the satellite from the US, where season 13 launched overnight.

Aussie country music superstar Keith Urban is the only returning judge from last year, joined by new judge Harry Connick Jr and Jennifer Lopez, who returns after a year's absence.

Long-time judge Randy Jackson continues on the reality singing contest in a new mentoring role and Per Blankens, from the successful Swedish version, has joined Trish Kinane as an executive producer - one of many small tweaks to refresh the format.

The ongoing tension between judges Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey last year was still a hot topic among TV critics and writers.

"They're fun, they get along, it's going to be great," said host Ryan Seacrest of the new judges during a panel session at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour.

"I think when you watch a show you want to see people having fun and having a laugh.

"This group here definitely does that, they take the job very seriously but we have so much fun doing it and that definitely shines."

Lopez, whose busy year away included her first world concert tour, said she loved being back.

"I love coming to work every day, which is why I am back. I really enjoy this show, I am a fan and fell even more in love with it being involved with the production of the show.

"This season is no different in that I am lucky enough to sit between two people I respect and have a good time with; we all love music, we love this journey, we are all fans of American Idol."

Connick said he had been a fan of the show since he attended the first finale with Debra Messing when they were making the sitcom Will and Grace.

He said he was the sort of fan who sat at home with his family shouting at the TV when someone couldn't sing but there was no need to be mean; you just needed to be specific about what was wrong with a performance.

"Sometimes I am a bit blunt and direct but is it is never personal," he said.

"I love them, I really do but we've got to get on with the show and if somebody can't sing, they need to go home."

Urban was seen by many as the voice of reason between Minaj and Carey last year but played down their feuding.

He joked that he had returned because of the catering.

"I just love it, I had a good time last season," he told Today at the Fox all-star party at the Langham Huntington Pasadena Hotel on Monday night US time.

"I was ready to come back before I even knew who was coming back.

"I mean, I appreciate the gig and I appreciate how much it takes for these guys and girls to stand in front of us and do what they do and I think if you hang on to all those things it is a pretty big opportunity."

Urban is juggling Idol with his world tour, which comes to Perth in June.

"During the latter part of Idol, we actually go down and do one show in Adelaide in March at the Clipsal 500, and we're touring right now of course," he said.

"Our Light the Fuse tour for America finishes on February 1 and the live shows start with Idol for February, March, April, May; so probably May we will start rehearsing."

Urban described his recent Australian summer holiday with wife Nicole Kidman and daughters Sunday Rose and Faith as "two weeks of bliss".

Are the girls now of the age where they enjoy watching him on Idol?

"Sunny is five and a half; she will watch a little bit of it," he said. "Faith is only three but she will probably watch this season of it."

The West Australian

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