Simon Cowell says he has not watched an episode of Fox’s American Idol since he left the show.
“I haven’t seen a full episode yet,” the former Idol judge told reporters on a conference call for his upcoming music competition series, The X Factor. “I saw three minutes of a recap last week. From what I’ve seen, from what I’ve heard, it all seems to be going well. I always thought that would be the case. What I was more concerned about was the ratings falling off a cliff, meaning that that whole genre is over. I think the good news is that people are still excited about these shows, whether it be that show, Dancing with the Stars, which has definitely gotten better over the years, America’s Got Talent, which the ratings have gone up over the years. People, thank god, still like these shows, and that gives me more confidence when we launch ours… I think they’ve done a good job.”
Despite all the changes on the Fox hit, the ratings for Idol have pulled roughly even with Cowell’s last season on the show. Asked if his former Idol partner Paula Abdul could be a judge on his X Factor, which debuts next fall and has not yet announced a full judging panel, Cowell demurred.
“I’m a massive fan of Paula,” he said. “We’ve been in regular contact. I’m not going to say today who we are going to confirm or not, because the truth is we haven’t made up our minds up yet…. It comes down to who I think is interesting, and the commitment and the expertise each person offers.”
One critic asked about Fox’s announcement this morning that X Factor will allow contestants as young as 12 to audition. Should kids that young be subjected to the intense public scrutiny of a primetime competition series?
“Five or six years ago I wouldn’t have done it,” Cowell said. “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 what kids this age are capable of doing. I went on record years ago saying I think it’s wrong to have people around this age doing it, and now I think times have changed. You have to make a case-by-case decision based on them as a person, whether they’re capable of doing this kind of thing, what their parental support is like.”
Cowell also said that Susan Boyle taught him a “huge lesson” about making assumptions about a potential star’s age or outward appearance.
“[I learned] I have to be more open minded,” he says. “I don’t believe Susan Boyle would have got through in the old-fashion audition method…. God only knows what we would have said to [Lady Gaga] if she walked into Idol with a lobster on her head three years ago.”