Fall TV Preview

Simon Cowell Sounds Off on X Factor's Cheryl Cole Snafu, Voice Mimicry, and Hidden Cameras

Reality TV king Simon Cowell held court, via satellite, at the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Friday, fielding questions about Fox’s fall premiere of The X Factor, the surprising switcheroo in judges, how The Voice did and didn’t steal its ideas, and how this singing competition will deliver moments unlike anything you’ve seen before.

The Cole Hard Truth (?) | Asked to clarify the circumstances that led X Factor to replace Cheryl Cole, a vet of the UK edition, with Nicole Scherzinger (who had originally been set to cohost), Cowell stuck to his original spiel. After Cole attended two cities’ worth of audition sessions, “We felt that she was going to be more comfortable doing the UK show than the American one [and] I thought it would be been good for the show over there,” he said. When Cole’s return to the original X Factor didn’t pan out, “She was offered a chance to come back to America, but for certain reasons decided not to. I guess that’s what happens when you make reality TV –- real things happen.” As for talk that Cole clashed with fellow judge Paula Abdul, Cowell deferred: “If it was q question of not getting along with Paula, I wouldn’t be on the show!”

Carey On | Without revealing specifics, Cowell confirmed that there’s a section of the X Factor season that he hopes Mariah Carey will get involved with –- short of filling an even larger role with the series. “She selfishly got pregnant,” he joked, “which is why she didn’t end up as a judge.”

Versus The Voice | Cowell argued that while the NBC competition’s judges-as-mentors element may seem similar to one of X Factor‘s hooks, “When you watch the show and see how we work with the contestants, it is very different from The Voice.”

Sing TV Firsts | Among the U.S. X Factor‘s calling cards will be a “supersized, 2-1/2 hour live show, which we have never done before,” Cowell said, plus hidden cameras that will capture behind-the-scenes action with the contestants. Plus, Simon repeatedly stressed that because of “the way the judges are going to work with these contestants, you are going to see and hear performances unlike you’ve ever seen on TV.”

Key dates for Fox’s The X Factor, which will mostly follow a Wednesday-Thursday schedule, are as follows:

Wednesday, Sept. 21 (from 8 to 10 pm): Season Premiere
Wednesday, Oct. 5 (8-9:30 pm): Contestant Boot Camp Begins
Tuesday, Oct. 25 (8-10:30 pm): Finalists Revealed
Wednesday, Nov. 2 (8-10 pm): First Live Performance Show
Wednesday, Dec. 21 (8-9:30 pm) Live Season Finale, Part 1
Thursday, Dec. 22 (8-10 pm) Live Season Finale, Part 2

In Season 1, Cowell will be joined at the judges’ table by Abdul, recording industry vet L.A. Reid, and former Pussycat Doll Scherzinger as they travel the country for live auditions and hunt for solo artists and vocal groups age 12 and over to win a $5 million record deal with Syco/Sony Music. Contestants will advance to a “Boot Camp” round, then be split into one of four groups — young guys, young girls, older singers, and groups — and each of the four groups will be paired with a judge/mentor as they navigate the live performance shows and survive eliminations determined by viewer votes and the judges.

Additionally, Fox announced that The X Factor champ will be featured in a Super Bowl commercial for Pepsi, one of the show’s key sponsors.