PASADENA, Calif. - If you think it rang a little false when "American Idol" contestants professed their love and friendship toward one another, you're right.
"They don't all love each other," judge Simon Cowell said on Tuesday, "and they've never loved each other."
"Because they all want to win," echoed fellow judge Randy Jackson.
The show's new season begins Tuesday - always a joyous day for Fox - and people at "American Idol" say it's marked by the way contestants drop pretenses of camaraderie, and point fingers of blame when things go wrong.
"They all hate each other deep down, but they aren't going to say it on camera," Jackson said.
By contrast, Fox worked Tuesday to dampen any internal controversies. Judge Paula Abdul, who was allowed to remain with the show after the network concluded a charge that she had an affair with one of the show's contestants couldn't be substantiated, didn't attend a news conference she was scheduled to attend with Cowell and Jackson.
Fox explained moments before the meeting that Abdul had an eye infection and was going to the doctor.
Fox entertainment chief Peter Liguori said the network considered the case closed, that there was no proof the sanctity of the competition was violated.
Liguori and others at Fox are eagerly awaiting the second half of the TV season, when "Idol" should, as it has in the past, kicked the network into high gear. The return of "24" is another winner for Fox (the conclusion of its two-part season premiere Monday was seen by just under 15 million people, according to Nielsen Media Research).
Two long-running Fox comedies - "That '70s Show" and "Malcolm in the Middle" - will both be ending this season, Liguori said. "Malcolm in the Middle" will air its last episode on May 14, he said.
"That '70s Show" began in 1998 and lasted two years short of the decade it celebrated. Its last episode will air May 18, and Liguori said he's unsure whether former series stars Ashton Kutcher or Topher Grace will return at the end.