‘American Idol’ is back — and still in it to win it!

Oh, American Idol. I can’t quit you. And I’m surprised how much I missed you. Some people wait a lifetime — or, well, two years — for a moment like this.

So, two years ago, I thought it was all over. Fox canceled Idol after 15 seasons. I put my Adam Lambert T-shirt in a drawer, deleted Idol from my DVR schedule, and figured I’d just have to settle for episodes of The Voice and, um, The Four. But now, Idol is back. It’s on a new network, ABC, with three new superstar judges — Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan — but, surprisingly, it’s the same old show I’ve always known, loved, and blogged.

No, not even the slightly icky presence of under-fire host Ryan Seacrest can squelch my good vibes — which kicked in Sunday, as soon as I heard Carrie Underwood’s inspirational “it could happen to you” speech in the cold open of Idol’s reboot premiere.

And here’s why: Despite the hype surrounding Idol’s new powerhouse panel (and Katy’s powerhouse paycheck), the show is still all about the contestants. Sure, the judges got their TV moments — like when one awkward dude kissed Katy and liked it, or when the judges goofed off in frizzy Richie wigs. (The Lionel jokes on this show practically write themselves. It’s only a matter of time before some contestant tells him, “Hello! It’s meyou’re looking for!”) And the judges were tough when necessary, telling one overconfident, under-pitch singer, “You’re not a pop star” and “That voice isn’t going to work for records.” But most of the time, the focus was on what Katy called an “abundance of riches” — aka, some very talented contestants.

Yep, Idol was never broke, so ABC didn’t fix it. In fact, within five minutes, Katy, Lionel, and Luke were seated at their desk, under that familiar blue oval logo with its nostalgic Kaufmann font, and the auditions were underway.

Kieran, dim the lights. THIS is American Idol.

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