Changing seasons


“American Idol”

Wednesday-Thursday 9pm, FOX
Simon is gone. Last season was a disaster. A slew of new singing competitions are set to launch in the next 12 months. “Idol” needed change big time, and that looks like what it got. Ellen and Kara are out; unfortunately some idiot signed Randy to a multi-year contract, so we’re still stuck with him. Joining the judging panel are Jennifer Lopez (I hope she’s mean!) and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler. That one I don’t get. Rock legend, no doubt, but I can think of a dozen has-been rockers who would be a better fit here. But wait, there’s more! No more goofy theme weeks. The participants can now perform original songs. And best of all, no more endless semi-final rounds. We still have to slog through four weeks of terrible auditions, but remind yourself: Nothing can be worse than last season.

“Parks and Recreation”

Thursday 9:30pm, NBC
“Parks” improved dramatically during its second season, blossoming into a smart, very funny and charming little gem. It returns this week for Season 3 as part of NBC’s new three-hour comedy block, which bundles this show with “Community,” newcomer “Perfect Couples,” “The Office,” “30 Rock,” and “Outsourced.” Season 2 guest stars Adam Scott (“Party Down”) and Rob Lowe (who’s been in and quit a bunch of shows) return, with Scott now permanently on board as the love interest of Amy Poehler’s plucky civil servant. And Megan Mullaly (“Will & Grace”) will be back as the harpy librarian ex-wife of Ron Swanson, the most awesome straight guy in the world. Bask in that glorious moustache!

“Spartacus: Gods of the Arena”

Friday 10pm, Starz
Ladies—and gentlemen of a certain persuasion—if you seek beefcake, I urge you to add “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” to your Netflix Instant Queue immediately. By episode two countless slabs of man meat wear naught but codpieces, and often not even that. Yes, the violence is ridiculous, and the first season took a while to find its stride. But it was basically Gladiator + softcore porn x “Melrose Place,” and that can only = awesome. This six-part prequel, which tells the story of the rise of the first Champion of Capua, will feature “Blood and Sand” regulars John Hannah and Lucy Lawless, and other familiar faces. “B&S” star Andy Whitfield will even make a cameo as Spartacus, likely his last appearance in the role after bowing out due to his battle with cancer. Sad.