Simon Cowell rose to fame by being very, very blunt with his critiques on “American Idol,” but he revealed that the lower age limit – 12 – on “The X Factor” has caused him to take heaps of abuse from the new crop of young contestants.
“We’ve had to say to the 14 year olds, ‘Will you be kind to me?’ because they are more lippy than any other contestants I’ve met in my life. I felt traumatized after the auditions,” the Brit told a panel of reporters via satellite from London to Beverly Hills, for the FOX portion of the Television Critics Association session on Friday.
Simon said when the show hits the air this fall — premiering on September 21 — reality TV fans will get to see him ripped apart by at least one young person from the East Coast.
“There was this one kid in New York… You’ll see him, he’s a little rapper. He absolutely chewed me apart,” Simon said. “But I quite like that.”
An early promo for the show, released to critics this week as a teaser to promote the program, showed Simon and his fellow judges/mentors tossing out a few barbs at the contenders. The Brit said his group of judges/mentors – L.A. Reid, Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger — isn’t trying to be mean in order distinguish “The X Factor” from the cuddlier “Idol.”
“We didn’t make an intentional effort to be mean, I mean, that’s just in us. It’s just what happens on the show,” he said. “The contestants are mean to us and sometimes we’ve been harsh back to them. It’s give and take, but we didn’t want to make, ‘Oh, they’re a warm show, so we’re a cold show. The whole point was… I think it’s really important when you make reality TV that it’s as real as possible.”
Simon revealed on Friday that he is still in talks with Mariah Carey to come to “The X Factor,” and finally confirmed she was on the original short list for a judges’ table slot.
“We do have well known people helping us on the show and there’s a section on the show I’m hoping Mariah will get involved in,” Simon said. “And she’s been in since Day 1, but then she selfishly got pregnant and that’s why she didn’t end up a judge.”
During the TCA session, the Brit also addressed the departure of Cheryl Cole, who served as a judge on “The X Factor’s” stateside edition for just two dates before she was replaced by original co-host Nicole.
“It wasn’t just me, there were a few of us who made a decision, when we were filming the show, that Cheryl, we felt… was gonna be more comfortable doing the UK than the American show, and after two cities, I offered her the job back in the UK, which initially she accepted, and then unfortunately, when it went public, negotiations fell apart,” he explained. “But she was offered the chance to come back to America, but for certain reasons decided not to.”
Simon said British pop star Cheryl’s departure had nothing to do with rumors she and Paula Abdul were sparring in early audition cities.
“If it was a question of not getting on with Paula, then I wouldn’t be on the show,” Simon said. “That had nothing to do with it… The truth… is that I thought Cheryl returning back to the UK would have been a big headline, I thought it would have been good for the show over there, good for her and when you have to make decisions as a producer, you have to make hard decisions, and public decisions, and I’m the first to admit that if you get it wrong, you have to take it on the chin, but having said that, Nicole has been a revelation.”