Can Simon Cowell’s The X Factor be the show that finally overthrows American Idol as the top-rated series on TV?
Cowell thinks so. Asked by a critic at Fox’s press tour in Beverly Hills if the U.S. version of the Brit hit can draw bigger numbers than his previous show, Cowell replied, “If I didn’t think we could – and it’s not just Idol; it’s any show – you don’t enter something for the silver medal. You do it because you want to be number one. And for the next few months, we’re going to shove everything at this to try and make it the best show on TV.”
Cowell made the remarks while appearing via satellite during an occasionally bizarre panel with his fellow Factor judges and producers. Executives announced Factor will have a special two-and-a-half-hour episode this fall – a rarity on Fox, which only programs to 10 p.m. – and said it would be a more performance-oriented show than Idol. “I wouldn’t have made the show unless I thought it would’ve been different,” Cowell said. “We see this as a game changer.”
That said, Cowell believe the shows can peacefully co-exist. “I see it the same way as movies,” he said. “In one year you can have 10 great movies. The idea that there was only ever going to be one singing competition in America is crazy. Sure enough, [NBC’s] The Voice came along and did a good job.”
The success of The Voice, said Cowell, just meant “you have to make the show better. The people who benefit from this is the audience.”
Critics asked Cowell about the confusion and headlines over the judging panel, which at one point had Cheryl Cole signed onto the show, then switched to Nicole Scherzinger.
“There was a few of us who made the decision, that Cheryl would be more comfortable in the UK show,” he said. “I offered her the job in the UK back. If it was a question of not getting along with Paula [Abdul], I wouldn’t be on the show. I thought Cheryl returning back to the UK would have been a big headline and good for the show over there and good for her. I probably got this wrong and I admit it.”
The acerbic Brit added it was true he wanted Mariah Carey as a judge, but she made the “selfish decision” to become pregnant.
Asked if having younger contestants than on Idol has prompted him to soften his critiques, Cowell said that dealing with kids who are 14 has been an eye opener. “If I’m being honest with you, it’s the other way around. They are more lippy than any other contestants. I was quite traumatized after the auditions.”
Then things got a little weird. When discussing the show’s $5 million prize, Cowell at one point asked judge L.A. Reid, “Can I interrupt?” Reid replied, “No, but if you insist.”
Later Scherzinger – who answered with such emotive speech she made Abdul look stern and businesslike by comparison – was talking about NBC’s Sing Off, describing the show as “two different animals and two different beasts” when Abdul started laughing, seemingly uncontrollably. Simon said he needed “a translator,” made a throat-cutting gesture and his satellite feed was cut off. Later he returned as if nothing had happened. (For more on the whole oddness of this panel, check out Ken Tucker’s take here).
“Simon can’t get rid of me,” Scherzinger said. “I love our big dysfunctional family.”