Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.
UPDATED: The incomparable Simon Cowell met the TCA press from afar — via satellite from an undisclosed location that looked suspiciously like a luxury yacht at sea — to promote his latest Fox singing competition to hit America, The X Factor, which arrives needing little plugging. Early on, he confirmed that he’s in talks with Mariah Carey for a mentor-type role on the series that will air Tuesday and Wednesday nights each week beginning Sept. 21. “There are certain sections of the show that I’m hoping Mariah will get involved in,” he said. “She’s been enthusiastic (to be a part of the show) from day one. But then she selfishly got pregnant, which is why she didn’t end up as a judge.”
Cowell also was asked early on in the session to address the Cheryl Cole fiasco, wherein the popular judge on the British X Factor was brought to the U.S. version, only to get bounced after a single taping. “A few of us made the decision while we were filming the show that we felt Cheryl was going to be more comfortable doing the UK show than the American show. Unfortunately, when the story went public, negotiations fell apart. But she was offered the chance to come back to America. But for certain reasons, she decided not to. I guess that’s what happens when you make reality TV. Real things happen. It doesn’t always go your way.” Cowell dismissed speculation that any friction between Cole and fellow judge Paula Abdul may have played a role in Cole’s ouster. “If not getting along with Paula was a factor, I wouldn’t be on the show,” he said.
Several critics at the session wondered if Cowell, despite his appearance of supreme confidence at all times, had any concerns about X Factor effectively co-existing with American Idol as the fall version of Idol‘s spring invasion. “I see it in the same way as movies,” Cowell stressed. “In one year, you can have 10 great movies, while in other years you don’t. Or drama snows. There are a lot of dramas over a one-year period. The idea that there was only going to be one singing competition in America was crazy. The Voice came along as well and did a good job.” As for how X Factor will differ from Idol, he noted: “We see this as a game-changer. We’re going to try and change the rules. We’re going to find a completely different kind of contestant. … The shows are completely different.” Later, Fox reality guru Mike Darnell appeared on the panel with the judges and fellow producers and emphasized that he made no demands that the British X Factor be overly Americanized. “I actually told him to make it more English,” he said.
Cowell confirmed, “We didn’t change too much. Mike Darnell wanted to lower the age range down to 12, and when we thought about it we realized he was 100% right. … You’re going to see a surprising amount of stars in that age range this year.” Soon after Abdul appeared on the stage this morning, the fur typically began to fly in the good-natured sniping back and forth with Cowell. Abdul was asked what it’s like being back working with Cowell following her notorious departure from Idol. “It’s nice to be back in a demented relationship,” she said. “It’s like home.” Hardly missing a beat, Cowell shot back, “I think it’s more like The Exorcist 2.” Abdul later added, “Simon has turned into a pussycat.” Still later, Cowell observed of Abdul, “Everybody deserves a third chance.” Abdul (muttering): “Go away…go away…”
Fox had earlier announced that the X Factor winner would be featured in a Pepsi Super Bowl spot next February. And Cowell added that the victor also would be receiving $5 million in cash. Further, there will be a 2 1/2-hour “supersized” live edition of the show coming, likely in October.