Simon Cowell, a man who thinks big, is picturing his new singing contest The X Factor as America's No. 1 series. The British music industry executive, TV star and producer wants to prove that the U.K. and international TV hit can play on what he considers the world's top stage, America.
For Fox, home of The X Factor and Cowell's former stomping ground American Idol, his new show offers the chance to extend to the autumn season the ratings domination reliably provided by veteran American Idol from January to May.
The test started with last week’s debut of X. Joining Cowell as judges were Antonio “L.A.” Reid, Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger. British TV personality Steve Jones is the host.
The goal is never “the silver medal. You want to be No. 1, and over the next few months we're going to throw everything at this to make this the best show on TV,” Cowell says.
Like a movie producer with his eye on a box-office hit, Cowell has attempted to fashion the ideal cast — featuring himself, of course. Could he have a blockbuster in store? Roll credits for The X Factor and let the public vote.
The Star: Cowell, a proven brand with American Idol and the role model for every other talent show's smart but rudely blunt British judge.
He's a gunslinger, ready to shoot down the off-key and the annoying, and make the world safe for his brand of hit pop music and performers, whether that's Leona Lewis or Susan Boyle. On screen, he can be
charmingly sincere or a curmudgeonly wit and knows how to fill out a tight T-shirt.
Behind the scenes, he's master of his fate. Peter Rice, Fox network chairman, gave him final vote on “X Factor” decisions, Cowell says, with this ringing endorsement: “If we're going to trust you with this much money, we're going to trust you.”
The Buddy: Reid, the elegant, Grammy-winning producer and executive who has helped guide Usher, Justin Bieber and Mariah Carey, and is now dedicated to helping Cowell find voices that will dazzle and invigorate the music industry.
The Old Flame: Abdul, the singer-dancer and former American Idol judge whose on- and off-screen adventures and off-kilter chemistry with Cowell make her a predictable component of the show's promised unpredictability.
The Ingenue: Scherzinger, a former member of the Pussycat Dolls who brings youth, J-Lo-style glamour and her own reality TV credentials to the table as a onetime contestant on Pop Stars.
The Rookie: Host Jones, a onetime model who segued to TV host on British programs including 101 Ways to Leave a Game Sho and Drop Zone, and is making his U.S. series debut. He let other offers slide while he waited for X Factor, the one he wanted.
“I really rolled the dice,” says Jones. He won. Will The Factor and Fox?
Photo: IN CHARGE: Former American Idol judge Simon Cowell takes his brand — and full control — to his new show.