Is America Ready for 'The X Factor?' Simon Cowell's Willing to Bet $5 Million on It
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
It's been a while since we've seen Simon Cowell on TV. Since exiting American Idol in May 2010, the acid-tongued Brit has been lurking in the shadows, preparing to bring his successful U.K. hit The X Factor to the good ol' U.S. of A.
The show doesn't air until the fall, but I had a chance to speak with Simon during a conference call with other members of the press. He answered the tough questions we Americans really want to know: Will Paula be a judge? Will he still be mean? Will he continue to wear black V-neck T-shirts that are at least one size too small? See what Simon had to say on these and other "important" issues.
With today's economic climate, were you at all nervous that a $5 million prize was too high (for the winner of The X Factor)?
Simon: Yes. I should be nervous. The reason we decided to do this was to show the people who are auditioning, sometimes you've got to put your money where your mouth is. By putting up that kind of prize money, it's a massive, massive risk. But it's also an incredible incentive. I didn't want to go into this show without feeling a certain amount of pressure, because with pressure, you've got to find the star. I'm nervous, but I'm also confident that it was the right thing to do.
In addition to judging each contestant, each judge will also mentor three finalists. How will the mentoring aspect add to the show?
Simon: The reason we replaced Idol with X Factor in the UK to begin with is that I got bored of just judging. I got frustrated when I criticized 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. 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 artists win, you win. It becomes incredibly competitive between the judges, in a way more competitive than between the artists because we don't pretend to like each other.
Are we going to be seeing the same mean Simon as a judge? Or will there be a new Simon?
Simon: You adapt over the years. I've started to cringe when I see people being booked as the so called "mean" judge, being rude for the sake of it. I'm not like that, I have my own style. I like to think that I'm honest. I wouldn't sugar coat things to make myself popular. People know what to expect if I'm on the judging panel. I don't think things are going to change too much.
Any chance we'll see Paula Abdual as a judge on X Factor?
Simon: I'm a massive fan of Paula. It's unusual when you work with someone for
as long as I did with Paula; we were friends on the show and afterward
we've been in regular contact. I'm not going to say today on this call
who we are going to confirm, because the truth is we honestly haven't
made our minds up yet. We're talking to a number of people and I would
expect to make an announcement in the next three to four weeks, but it might be
a bit longer.
American Idol got a lot of kickback for lowering the minimum
age to 15 this season. What do you think of the minimum age of 12 for X
Simon: I've thought long and hard about this. I think five or six years ago I
wouldn't have done it. But, through experience there are some incredibly
talented young kids out there. And because I work for a record label,
over the last 12 months we've started to see a trend of kids this age,
what they're capable of doing, whether they can withstand the
Any thoughts on the new season of American Idol?
Simon: I haven't seen a full episode yet. I think it seems to be going well. I always thought that would be the case. People are still excited about these shows. I think they've done a good job.
(Image courtesy of FOX)