He’s back, and Fox wants to make sure you don’t forget it.
Fresh off of a pair of epic promos during Sunday’s Super Bowl XLV broadcast, Simon Cowell talked with reporters in a 30-minute conference call about “The X Factor,” the show that will bring him back to American television in the fall for the first time since the “American Idol” finale last May.
Cowell’s eagerly anticipated British import, which has rules that differ slightly from “Idol,” comes as his old show here appears to be regaining some new life with new judges, particularly breakout star Steven Tyler.
What everyone wants to know is whether Paula Abdul will reunite with her long-time pal on “The X Factor” judging table. And while Simon didn’t reveal any of the judges — except to confirm that he will, indeed, be a judge — he did not rule out such a reunion.
“I’m a massive fan of Paula and it’s quite unusual when you work with somebody for as long as I did with Paula that we were friends on the show about 80 percent of the time and then, interestingly, afterward we’ve been in regular contact,” he said. “I’m not going to say today on this call who we are going to confirm or who we’re not going to confirm, because the truth is we honestly haven’t made up our mind up yet. We are talking to a lot of people and then I expect to make an announcement in three or four weeks, or it might be a bit longer, I’m not sure, as to who the panel are going to be.”
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Cowell didn’t provide any groundbreaking news beyond what’s been out there most of Monday: that auditions will begin on March 27 in Los Angeles, there’s a 12-year-old minimum and no age maximum and the grand prize is a $5 million recording contract.
He expanded on some of those points in the call this afternoon and gave a little more insight into how “The X Factor” will be different from “American Idol” and his other U.S. production, “America’s Got Talent.”
Getting back to the judges, Cowell said he hasn’t given much thought to whether any particular judge should be British or American, but they should be ready to invest a significant amount of time because the role is different on “X Factor” than it is on “Idol.”
“The most important criteria for this show is the commitment and the expertise each person offers, because on this show, when you reach the live part of the show, each judge is going to mentor three finalists each, and that means you’ve got to work with them up to five or six days a week,” he said. “It is hard work. You are deciding on their material, how they perform on the night, you’ve got to have a relationship with them. I also think it’s really important for me that I’ve got people I can trust in terms of their expertise, their gut feeling.
“I also think it’s important on a show like this that you’ve got people who are very competitive with each other, because, essentially, the judges are taking part in this competition as well as the competitors. And you want somebody who is competitive. That’s why the British-American thing is not the most important thing. It’s who I’m hoping the American audience will find interesting and actually know what they’re talking about. And it also helps if they’re cute.”
The new role for the judges is why Cowell said he “got bored” with “Idol” back in England and ultimately why he’s excited about bringing “X Factor” to America.
“The reason we replaced ‘Idol’ with ‘X Factor’ in the U.K. is that I got bored of just judging. I got frustrated when I kept criticizing people’s song choices or what they wore, or what they didn’t do right. And I wanted to make a show where I actually, along with my fellow judges, could help the competitors on a weekly basis,” he said. “That’s what I do in my real job. If you work at a record company, you work with the artists on everything — their song choices, their stylists, their choreographers — and it made sense to me that we should do that on a TV show. It’s definitely more interesting to me because I have a lot more to do. And, secondly, it’s an interesting thing to be judged as well as the competitor, because when you lose an artist, part of you has lost, as well. And when your artist wins, you win. And it really does become incredibly competitive between the judges once the competition starts. In a way, [it’s] even more competitive than the artists, because we don’t pretend to like each other.”
And the last thing everyone wants to know from Simon is what he thinks of the new judging panel on “American Idol.” Not shockingly, the answer pretty much boiled down to how it affects him.
“I haven’t seen a full episode yet,” he said. “I saw a three-minute recap last week. But from what I’ve seen and heard, it all seems to be going well and I always thought that would be the case. What I was more concerned about was the ratings falling off a cliff, meaning that the whole genre is now over. And I think the good news is that people are still excited about these shows.
“People, thank God, still like these shows and that gives me more confidence when we launch our one. I think the important distinction with ‘X Factor’ is that it’s going to run in the fall, which is has done for seven years in the U.K., and I like having these shows on at that time of the year, running up to Christmastime.”
And now we wait a little longer.