(L-R) Ryan Seacrest, Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, and Harry Connick, Jr., of the television show "American Idol" speak during the FOX portion of the 2014 Television Critics Association Press Tour at the Langham Hotel on January 13, 2014 in Pasadena, California

(L-R) Ryan Seacrest, Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, and Harry Connick, Jr., of the television show “American Idol” speak during the FOX portion of the 2014 Television Critics Association Press Tour at the Langham Hotel on January 13, 2014 in Pasadena, California

*In Wednesday’s premiere of “American Idol’s” 13th season, the show’s lone new judge appears to be the most Simon Cowell-like in his impatience with contestants who have no business trying to audition for any singing competition.

Harry Connick, Jr. was never treated with kid gloves by his mentors early on, and the 46-year-old singer, conductor, pianist, composer and actor says dismissing contestants who have no chance of advancing is not being mean – it’s being practical.

“It was my teachers like Ellis Marsalis who would say, ‘You should quit, you don’t have talent for this, you should think of another vocation, you’re not good enough.’ Those were mean things to say,” said Connick at the show’s TCA panel Monday.

Harry Connick Jr., of the television show "American Idol" speaks during the FOX portion of the 2014 Television Critics Association Press Tour at the Langham Hotel on January 13, 2014 in Pasadena, California

Harry Connick Jr., of the television show “American Idol” speaks during the FOX portion of the 2014 Television Critics Association Press Tour at the Langham Hotel on January 13, 2014 in Pasadena, California

The New Orleans native joins returning judges Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez (following a year hiatus) for a new season that hopes to wipe clear the memory of last year’s experiment with Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj.

The season 13 judges and host Ryan Seacrest had a more relaxed TCA presentation Monday than the weird energy emitted last January with the bickering divas on stage. The new, more harmonious panel is just one of several changes viewers will see this season as “Idol” again competes with NBC’s “The Voice” for the title of most popular.

(L-R) Ryan Seacrest, Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick, Jr., Trish Kinane and Per Blankens of the television show "American Idol" speak during the FOX portion of the 2014 Television Critics Association Press Tour at the Langham Hotel on January 13, 2014 in Pasadena, California

(L-R) Ryan Seacrest, Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick, Jr., Trish Kinane and Per Blankens of the television show “American Idol” speak during the FOX portion of the 2014 Television Critics Association Press Tour at the Langham Hotel on January 13, 2014 in Pasadena, California

“Actually, I don’t think ‘The Voice’ is more popular than our show,” argued executive producer Trish Kinane. “If you look at the ratings, ‘American Idol’ still beat it. But, having said that, ‘Idol’ is the gold standard, it is the original format, it is the Cinderella story and bits of ‘American Idol’ are appearing all over the place in other shows.

“‘The Voice’ is a good show. I think there’s room for both of them in this market, but that’s not to say we don’t think we’ve got a really great show here this year.”

In addition to Randy Jackson moving from judge to mentor, changes in format this season include the addition of “The Chamber,” a room where contestants are filmed alone once they leave the holding room during Hollywood Week and before they meet the judges one-on-one. Responding to viewer complaints that the middle rounds last too long, that period has been edited down to one week – Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday – dubbed “Rush Week.” This is where Jackson comes in with his mentoring.

Connick’s cut-to-the-chase candor, however, is an added joy that viewers will likely appreciate the most. Below, Connick says that telling a contestant he or she can’t sing is actually the humane thing to do.

  • “American Idol XIII” debuts with a two-night premiere on Wednesday, Jan. 15 and Thursday, Jan. 16, on FOX. 
  • New Surprise round sends contestants to “Hollywood or Home” on Wednesday, Feb. 5; Hollywood rounds continue Thursday, Feb. 6 and Wednesday, Feb. 12. 
  • Top semi-finalists revealed Thursday, Feb. 13.
  • Three-night “Rush Week” begins Tuesday Feb. 18 and continues Wednesday, Feb. 19 and Thursday, Feb. 20, when the top 13 finalists are announced.
  • Top 13 perform live on Wednesday, Feb. 26.