“The X Factor” U.S. is inevitably getting compared to “American Idol,” but Simon Cowell (who is an executive producer/judge on “The X Factor” U.S.) says that his show is doing something that “American Idol” doesn’t do: use hidden cameras to expose contestants’ true personalities.
In an exclusive Q&A with ReelzChannel, Cowell was interviewed by his older half-brother Tony Cowell, who is ReelzChannel’s special “X Factor” U.S. correspondent. Simon said in part two of the interview (which aired on September 29, 2011):
“We put cameras in all the makeup mirrors, and we didn’t tell them [the contestants]. I’ve worked with contestants who, on camera, are the nicest, most beautiful people you’d ever meet. [With the] cameras off, they are absolute horrors. On this show, you see everything. Otherwise, it’s not real.”
All of this “X Factor” hidden-camera business is legal, since the contestants sign contracts that give “The X Factor” the rights to record them by any method that the show wants, while the contestants are competing on the show.
“American Idol” used to televise footage of the contestants in their shared living environment during the competition, but “American Idol” stopped showing that kind of footage after the first few seasons of the TV series. “American Idol” producers explained that they wanted the contestants to be judged on their singing performances, not on how they interact with the other contestants off stage.
Obviously, Simon Cowell feels quite differently.
As previously reported, two contestants who performed as a duo were kicked off of “The X Factor” U.K. in 2011 when one of the contestants was caught (on hidden camera) snorting the drug mephedrone in a dressing room.
In the ReelzChannel interview, Simon also talked to about the rivalry between him and fellow “X Factor” U.S. judge L.A. Reid:
“L.A. is probably the most competitive person I ever met since me. Literally, the first day, he asked production what car I was being driven in. Seriously, he found out it was a Rolls Royce. He went out and ordered a Rolls Royce. What he didn’t know was that I had a stretch one. Oops.”
In the U.K., where “The X Factor” debuted in 2004, all of the winners so far have been solo singers. A duo or group has yet to win the show.
“The X Factor” U.S. is a contest for unsigned solo singers and unsigned vocal groups. Contestants must be at least 12 years old, legal U.S. residents and legally able to work in the United States. The show has a grand prize of $5 million and a record deal with Sony Music.
Each of the four judges (Simon Cowell, Reid, Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger) is given a category of contestants to mentor: female solo singers under age 30; male solo singers under age 30; solo singers ages 30 and older; and vocal groups.
It has not yet been publicly revealed which judge will have which mentor category. (The judges usually do not get the same categories two years in a row.)
For “The X Factor” U.S. (which Fox debuted on September 21, 2011), Simon states that he would like to see a group to win the competition.
Could this be a hint that Simon is mentoring the groups in 2011? He told ReelzChannel:
“I would love for a group to win because there’s a gap in the market right now. There aren’t many pop groups that are doing particularly well at the moment.”
(Click here to read what Simon talked about in part one of his exclusive ReelzChannel interview with his brother Tony.)