Even Simon Cowell Gets Rejected

by | January 24, 2011 at 5:43 PM | American Idol, TV News

Simon Cowell (Photo: HARPO)

Simon Cowell (Photo: HARPO)


Somewhere there is a TV executive from a network other than Fox who must be kicking himself for rejecting a pitch from Simon Cowell and his cohorts for a singing competition show that would become “American Idol.

The former “American Idol” judge told the story in the latest installment of “Oprah Winfrey Presents Master Class,” the new show on OWN in which a prominent celebrity basically faces a camera and tells his or her personal story.

Cowell said the first pitch for an American version of “Pop Idol” – which became a phenomenon as “American Idol,” starting in 2002 on Fox – lasted about one minute before Cowell and (now former) colleagues Simon Fuller and Simon Jones were cut off and abruptly asked to leave.

“A minute into the pitch, the guy said, ‘No’,” Cowell said, according to a story in The Hollywood Reporter. “He said, ‘You can leave now,’ and I said, ‘So it sounds to me that you don’t like the show?’ And he said, ‘Get out.’ And I said, ‘So should we come back next week?’ And he said, ‘Get out’. … We were basically thrown out of the network.” Cowell didn’t identify the exec or the network.

It’s a great story because of what it reveals about the randomness of success in Hollywood. One day, you’re being thrown out of someone’s office because he or she just doesn’t get what you’re pitching them, and the next day, another network is saying yes and, before you know it, you have the world’s biggest hit show on your hands.

This kind of thing happens occasionally in the annals of TV. It reminds us of our favorite story of this type, one told by David Chase, creator of “The Sopranos,” which he pitched to a number of networks before landing at HBO. The first network to reject “The Sopranos” was CBS, way back in 1995, Chase has said.

According to him, a CBS executive had a classic reaction to Chase’s concept for a show about a North Jersey mafia boss who was so stressed, he was seeing a psychiatrist. That, of course, was the unique twist that set “The Sopranos” apart from all other mob dramas. And yet, the exec didn’t get it. “I don’t have any problems with the murders and the robberies,” the exec said, according to Chase, “but does he have to be in therapy?”

Elsewhere in his “interview” on “Master Class,” Cowell, 51, talked about his love life – specifically his engagement to Mezhgan Hussainy, 36, a makeup artist.

“Mish has softened me,” he said, according to an account on the Canadian Web site, CTV.ca. “She’s helped me see the world differently,” he said. “She has knocked my socks off. I’d never been good with relationships and I never thought I’d be with one person. I do now. I genuinely believed no one would want to marry me. I am difficult to live with. I’m selfish, quite weird and I need time on my own to think – and then I work all night long. That is difficult for someone to deal with. And it would drive me mad – I could never be my own girlfriend!”