Chuck Ross

Simon Cowell Talks to TVWeek as the ‘X-Factor’ Finale Is Soon to Air. What Cowell Will Do About the Sing-Offs Next Season and What He Thinks About the Judging on ‘American Idol.’ And What TVWeek Thinks Should Happen to Host Steve Jones

Dec 20, 2011

The four judges and three remaining contestants on Fox’s “The X-Factor” held a press conference on the set of the show at CBS Television City on Monday, Dec. 19, 2011, and I attended to find out what Simon Cowell intended to do next season with the screwed-up judging of the sing-offs.

So during the press conference I told Cowell that it seems to me, judging from the emails we get, the way he’s got it set up where the public eliminates one person each week is working. However, the part where the judges eliminate another person is not working. You’re going to deadlock too often, and the judges are not picking the person who does the best in the sing-off. Are you thinking of changing how that works for next season, I asked him.

To which Cowell replied, “Absolutely not.” Then he spoke specifically of the week Nicole froze up, sent the process into deadlock, and Rachel Crow got eliminated from the show, despite the fact that she clearly sang better than Marcus Canty in the sing-off. “If that week had worked, in the way I believe the process should work … the judges could have saved [Rachel]. The fact it went to deadlock means that that week the process didn’t work.”

Then Cowell criticized Nicole, saying, “If everyone had done their job properly that week, then this format would have worked really well. So I’m not going to change the system, I’m just going to suggest that we do a better job when we do it in the future.”

As I’ve previously written, Cowell himself was equally guilty of screwing up the process this season.

Entertainment Weekly’s Adam Vary then asked a good question about the problem with groups on the show, noting that a group had, for the first time, finally made it into the finals of the U.K version of “The X-Factor” this season, after the show has been on-air there for almost a decade.

Cowell replied, “Within two years, a group will win this show. Because I think I know the kind of group who could win the show like this. And if they walk in the door, they’ll win. Guarantee it. I can feel it.”

Paula Abdul was the mentor of the groups this season, and I liked what she put forward for next season. It’s an idea she said a number of viewers have suggested to her: “Maybe if each judge/mentor had one group, and we each had one female, one male, and one over-30, that would help solidify more interest in groups.”

Cowell also addressed the high expectations he had for the show this season that it didn’t reach. For example, he predicted that out-of-the-box it would have “Idol” like ratings, and “The X-Factor” hasn’t come close. “I think I probably came here a little too cocky, but I am cocky by nature. I had come off the back of a massive hit in the U.K., had the adrenaline (and) couldn’t wait to put the show on here, and it is going to take a little longer than I thought.”

He also vowed that the show would improve next year.

Given Cowell’s ego and his will to succeed, it makes me want to definiltely check out the show again next season.

After the formal press conference was over Cowell and I spoke for a few minutes. He said he was glad I had asked about the judging of the sing-offs and again vowed they’d do it better next season. We also spoke for a moment about the judging on “American Idol” last season.

I said I thought the judges, in an effort to make the show more positive for the contestants, had mostly just given us mealy-mouthed platitudes. Cowell seemed to agree, commenting that he thought viewers would eventually turn to “The X-Factor” to see him and his cohorts if “Idol” continued in that direction.

Of course the problem there is that too much of the judges’ patter on “The X-Factor” is sniping at the other judges. Like at “Idol,” I thought that even our ol’ reliable truth-teller — Cowell — had too often not given honest assessments of the performances this year on “The X-Factor.” Each judge is too leery of critically assessing the performance of those he or she mentors.

Maybe that’s something Cowell will tweak for next season as well. Part of that process would be replacing Nicole and host Steve Jones. In fact, there are stories all over the ‘net today that Jones will indeed be history next year, though no on-the-record sources are quoted in any of the stories and Cowell has previously said that decisions about who will return to "The X-Factor" next season have not yet been made. 

Jones — I’ve yet to find one viewer who likes him — is more awkward to watch on TV than the last most awkward person to watch on TV, Dan Rather when he anchored CBS’s nightly newscast.

"What’s the frequency, Steve?" I know, I know, you don’t have a clue.


  1. Thanks Chuck for the update and the great questions posed to Simon. It’s good to have the inside scoop on what looks like a promising show that just needs a few tweaks here and there. The level of singing on X Factor is like what I always hoped Idol would be and only reached on that show sporadically. Moving forward, I’d each judge to not automatically favor a particular contestant. One way to do that would be to have the contestants trade mentors each week or have all of them mentor all the contestants. That would also give contestants a broader perspective from different mentors’ POV and perhaps more “honest” feedback from the judges. The “loyalty” is so much BS and no one is fooled. Looking forward to the finale.

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