Welcome Back American Idol! What do YOU think?

Is American Idol leading us on?

The pop culture staple is back for Season 11 and if you judge on its premiere episode last night, it’s going to be a season full of strong talent.

Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler (in their second season as a panel) traveled to Savannah, Georgia and found a deep pool of Southern talent. Right out of the gate, they were impressed by boyish looking teen David Leathers, Jr. The self-proclaimed “ladies man” actually beat last year’s AI winner, Scotty McCreery, in a local singing contest a couple of years ago. Leathers showed the judges why, with a voice much like a young Michael Jackson. He quickly got his golden ticket to Hollywood.

Leathers started a string of “You’re going to Hollywood” contestants. In all, the panel sent 42 singers to the next round – one of the strongest showings by a single city.

But did producers give us this episode first to lull us into believing this would be the year we’d hear greatness again like Carrie Underwood or Kelly Clarkson?

That remains to be seen.

What’s obvious is American Idol’s Modus Operandi is unchanged. A few great singers, a handful of crazies, and lots of sob stories.

They introduced us the a woman from Tennessee who’s currently living in a tent in the woods. She wore a borrowed dress to sing in front of the judges. She’s going to Hollywood.

We also met a man who quit his job when he wasn’t able to take time off for the AI audition. His pregnant wife encouraging him along the way. He also got a pass to Hollywood.

I don’t want to be a cynic. But I wish both of these contestants had been a little stronger. I’d love to see them win it all – modern-day Cinderella stories, but based strictly upon what I heard I’m not sure that’s going to happen. The voices were okay, but not as strong as their stories.

AI is about making good TV. It’s up to the voters to decide who they’d choose. Votes, often cast not just on singing ability, but the narrative of the contestant.

All singing aside, what I enjoyed perhaps the most from last night’s show was Steven Tyler’s antics. Both his sometimes inappropriate and incomprehensible comments and his star power. For some reason, women of all ages still lust after the 63-year-old rocker and he loves every minute of it. And I do too. For example, I got a huge kick out of the contestant who introduced herself as Steven Tyler’s “future ex-wife.” She was there to meet Tyler. But to do that she had to sing. She did and she wasn’t great. No trip to Hollywood. But she did get a hug from Tyler, including a squeeze of his butt.

I hope that doesn’t end up being the best part of the Season.

Question: Who did you like from last night’s episode?