LOS ANGELES — It sounds like the lyrics of a familiar tune. Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell trading quips as musical performers — some talented, some not — parade across the stage.
You’re not having an “American Idol” flashback. The pair have reunited as two of the judges for the new Fox musical competition show “The X Factor,” premiering Wednesday.
There are differences.
“The X Factor” judging panel also includes L.A. Reid and Nicole Scherzinger. The four judges will help decide who gets the $5 million recording contract with Syco/Sony Music. There’s no Ryan Seacrest. Steve Jones will host.
Even with the differences, “The X Factor” looks like the richer cousin of “Idol.” But Cowell says he would never have been part of the new competition program if he wasn’t sure it was different.
Here’s his take on “The X Factor.”
Question: How is the show different from “American Idol?”
Cowell: We’re going to try and change the rules. We’re going to try and find a completely different kind of contestant. Our job as judges is to find people who’ve got star quality, turn them into stars. And I’ve got a panel who can do that. For me, because I’ve worked on “Idol” and “The X Factor” for seven years, the shows were completely different, even though they were both talent competitions.
Q: Can it get bigger ratings than “Idol”?
A: If I didn’t think we could ... and it’s not just “Idol,” it’s any show ... you don’t enter something for the silver medal. You do it because you want to be No. 1. And for the next few months, we’re going to shove everything at this to try and make it the best show on TV.
Q: Can “Idol” and “X Factor” exist together?
A: I see it in the same way as movies. In one year you can have 10 great movies; in certain years you don’t. It’s the same thing with your drama shows. There are a lot of dramas who exist over a 12 month period. The idea that there was ever only ever going to be one singing competition in America was crazy. And sure enough, “The Voice” came along last year. They did a good job.
Q: Are American voters always right?
A: If I didn’t trust the public, then we wouldn’t have the audience vote, and we’d make all the decisions ourselves. So I think you’ve got to be careful what kind of contestants you put in because at the end of the day, I think it should be a talent competition, not a popularity competition. And what we’re trying to do is expand the voting system on this show, which is to allow as many people to vote in as many different ways as possible, like online voting. So I have to trust the audience, and I think they will get it right.”
Q: How mean will you be?
A: Well, we didn’t make an intentional effort to be mean. That’s just in us. It’s just what happens on the show. The contestants are mean to us, and sometimes we can be harsh back to them. It’s give and take.
Q: How strong is the talent?
A: In my opinion, out of the four categories — the boys, the girls, the group, and the older category — I could argue the case for five, six, seven people who could win this show. The judges are going to work with these contestants, and this is a really important point regarding the mentoring you’re going to see and hear performances on this show genuinely which you’ve never seen before on TV. And that will all start unfolding when you see the live shows. This looks like nothing else you’ve ever seen before.
THE X FACTOR
8 p.m. EDT Wednesday