Simon Cowell: ‘X Factor’ Out to Beat Top-Rated ‘Idol’

At TCA: Why Mariah isn’t a judge, whether Simon should be nicer, and how to expand on those Abdul-Cowell spats

Last Updated: August 5, 2011 @ 1:40 PM

Oh, it's on.

Simon Cowell accelerated the "X Factor" hype machine Friday by saying his new show aims to beat his old one, "American Idol," in the ratings. It's a big goal, given that "Idol" is the most-watched show on television.

"You don't enter into something for the silver medal," he said, addding that he wants to make "X Factor" "the best show on TV."

It isn't necessarily a friendly competition between the two Fox singing contests: "Idol" creator Simon Fuller sued Fox and Fremantle last month for a credit and fees for "X Factor." It sprung from a past settlement of a suit in which Fuller accused Cowell of stealing the "X Factor" format from "Idol."

Also read: 'X Factor': It's Long and Winding (and Bumpy) Road

Simon also sprinkled other pieces of news into a live-by-satellite appearance for the Television Critics Association summer press tour: He said Mariah Carey would have been a judge on the show if not for her "selfish decision" to become pregnant, but they are in talks for her to be a mentor.

He also said Cheryl Cole's axing as a judge had nothing to do with her not getting along with judge Paula Abdul.

"If it was a question of not getting along with Paula, then I wouldn't be on the show," he deadpanned.

After remarks from Cowell, fellow judges Paula Abdul, L.A. Reid and Nicole Scherzinger took the stage, seemingly determined to gin up buzz about feuding in their ranks — and build on the history of sometimes entertaining spats between Abdul and Cowell on "Idol."

Also read: The 'X Factor': What's With Our Need to Be Judged by the British?

Cowell volunteered that the judges' panel was often "boys vs. girls," as he and Reid tried to protect attractive female constestants who Abdul and Scherzinger tried to vote down.

The judges repeatedly interrupted each other, and called each other out for it — usually with Cowell chiming in from the screens surrounding the stage.

"Can I interrupt?" he asked at one point as Reid made a point.

"No. But if you insist," Reid said.

The exchange suggested a dynamic for the show in which fellow judges won't be afraid to stand up for themselves if Cowell goes into bullying mode. Panelists suggested that contestants will strike back as well.

"He's turned into a pussycat," Abdul said.

Asked if he had to temper his criticisms for young "X Factor" contestants — unllike "Idol," it will allow competitors as young as 12 — Cowell said they don't need special treatment.

"They were more lippy than any other contestants," he said. "So I was quite traumatized after the auditions."

A question about Fuller's lawsuit brought a moment of confusion among the panelists about who should address it. The task fell to executive producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz, who offered that "lawsuits are the cost of doing business in this country," but said she couldn't comment on ongoing litigation. Fox has said previously that the suit is without merit.