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Harry Connick Jr., Ryan Seacrest on New 'American Idol' Season: 'Give It Another Shot'

The long-running Fox competition is "back on track" Connick told THR at the Z100 Jingle Ball at Madison Square Garden Friday night.

Harry Connick Jr. Idol 10
Michael Becker / FOX
Harry Connick Jr.

American Idol host Ryan Seacrest has a message for viewers who may have checked out of the show last season: Give us another chance.

"I will say this to those who have watched the show throughout the years and maybe didn't watch last year: I ask them to come back and give it another shot this year," Seacrest told The Hollywood Reporter Friday on the red carpet at the Z100 Jingle Ball 2013 concert at Madison Square Garden. "The judges are so fun, and they are having such a good time, and they get along with each other so well that I think you will see your old American Idol back on the air."

The program's newest judge, Harry Connick Jr., addressed the show's challenges with reporters at Friday night's show. He said that he, along with fellow judges Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez, are all concentrating on the task at hand: searching for a superstar.

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"Jen and Keith are really focused. American Idol has a track record of making big stars, and there is a reason for that," he said. "This year is going to get back on track. It got a little bit off last year. It's got to be about the contestants, and I think all of us are really concerned about finding the best person."

Connick said that joining the show felt "normal" because he's "so familiar with it."

"I watched it every year since the first finale when Kelly Clarkson won," he said. "I am so intimately familiar with how the process works. I have been there a couple of times as a mentor, so it feels kind of like how it should feel."

He added that the show has found some "good talent," and described his judging style, which he said is a far cry from the days when Simon Cowell sat at the table.

"Simon and I don't have a whole lot in common," he said. " I think he was fantastic, but he's very different. … You can't tell people that you didn't like it and not tell them why. And it's hard to do that if you don't have a whole lot of background in actually playing an instrument or performing, and that's what I do. So it's very easy for me to pull from personal experience as to why people aren't doing as well as they could be and maybe what could help them get to the next level."

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He added that many of the contestants this year are young, from ages 15-25, and can benefit from the experienced panel.

"A lot of people think 'Oh, I'll work harder, I promise, if you put me through.' What do you mean you are going to work harder? Doing what? Jen knows what to work on because she is Jennifer Lopez," he said. "A lot of people think they just want to be a star, but they really don't want to put in what it takes to get there."

He was asked about his mentoring episode last season, when he insisted that top-four finalist Amber Holcomb needed to understand the lyrics to the standard, "My Funny Valentine."

"Telling Amber that she needed to learn the lyrics is not being hard at all. And what they didn't show you was the other 40 minutes of that mentoring session," he said. "If you want to see hard, go back in time and watch my teachers and how they talked to me. 'You should quit -- you're not worth performing. You should think about another vocation.' I was extremely patient and kind with her, and she knows it, and so does everyone else."

What is the show about this year? He said it's full of "great talent."

When asked about the show's focus on contestants, Seacrest was coy. "The Who?" he joked. "Are they on the show?"

Twitter: @MicheleAmabile