- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 30, 2009

NEW YORK — “American Idol” will return next month with a two-night, four-hour premiere featuring auditions in Boston and Atlanta, the Fox network says.

The Boston auditions will air Jan. 12, and the Atlanta auditions will air Jan. 13, the network announced. Auditions for the ninth season of the popular singing competition will also be held in Chicago; Orlando, Fla.; Dallas; Los Angeles; and Denver.

This year’s big change: Ellen DeGeneres is replacing Paula Abdul as judge. Miss DeGeneres will join the show in February, after the tryout rounds, Fox says.

Guest judges joining Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi include Victoria Beckham, Mary J. Blige, Kristin Chenoweth, Neil Patrick Harris, Joe Jonas, Avril Lavigne, Katy Perry and Shania Twain.

Miss Abdul announced she was quitting amid a contract dispute earlier this year.

Twelve male and 12 female semifinalists will be announced Feb. 17, with voting to begin Feb. 23. Last season, “American Idol” brought 36 men and women to Hollywood to compete, compared with two dozen in previous seasons.

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