The UK’s most talked about TV show, The X Factor, is back. And this year’s series sees the return of some favourite faces as rock royalty Sharon Osbourne, pop sensation Nicole Scherzinger, chart maestro Louis Walsh and The X Factor creator and music mogul Simon Cowell are reunited on the judging panel.
The X Factor asked Simon Cowell about what we can expect from this year's show and having the old panel back together again.
How are you feeling about the judging panel now you’ve filmed the auditions?
Me and Louis have a relationship that goes back a long way. Louis’ naughty, the auditions are long days but he makes it much more fun. I was actually thinking that about all of them actually, it’s like a little reunion, they are all on great form. Me and Sharon are a bit like Tom and Jerry, but we love each other secretly, and Nicole is slightly nuts, I love that. Then there’s Dermot, I missed him so much.
It’s all change this year...
The good thing about having a Twitter account is they [viewers] tell you what they think, it’s a bit like your mum and dad when they go, ‘Simon, you have screwed up’. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, I just didn’t realise how much the viewers missed everyone. In a strange way, that’s what I learnt, so this line-up was the easiest decision we have ever made, there was no speculation, it was just this is who’s going to be on the show.
What’s it like having Louis back?
What’s it like having Louis back? Years ago, a friend of mine moved to Australia and their dog had to move in with another family. Anyway, the friend came back a year later and that reunion between the friend and his dog is a little bit like me and Louis. We kind of missed each other and if he had a tail he would wag it!
Louis hasn’t been shy about saying what he thought about last year’s series...
He loved it! What was so funny was that he used to phone me every week, I’d get an hour where he would scream down the phone and I’d be like, ‘Well, stop watching. I can’t help it, it’s not my fault if you don’t like it anymore’. But honest to god, it was a weekly call. It would start about two in the morning and I’d be like, ‘Oh god, it’s Louis again’. I’d put it on speaker, lie down and listen. But he was passionate, he missed the old show and I liked seeing that side of Louis, sometimes he can get a little bit passive, but this was the Louis I have always known as a manager, he’s got a big mouth, he’s outspoken and critical, but that’s what I love about him.
You’ve had a love/hate relationship with Sharon in the past, where are you guys now? We’re more love/love at the moment. I’ve missed Sharon. I see the effect she has on contestants when they walk in the room. They love her. That’s the good thing when you make a show like this, you might make a year where people go, ‘I don’t like this so much’, but it’s very easy to change it around again. Sharon is unique, she’s got a very strong opinion, she’s got a very strange sense of humour, you can’t move her when she’s stuck on something, but I do believe that when she likes somebody, she really likes them, and that’s what the show is about.
Did she make you sweat over her decision to come back?
No, actually it was all done very quickly. Usually this takes forever, but we [the producers] sat in a room in January and I always say to everyone, ‘What would you like to do?’, and the funny thing was everyone said the same thing, ‘This is the panel and we want Dermot back on the show’, there was no either or. It was quick, we got on with it and that was that.
Does it make a difference that these three judges challenge you in ways other judges haven’t in the past? God they keep me on my toes. I think some of the time they are putting people through just to wind me up. I’ve kind of got to the point where it doesn’t bother me, I’m used to it. Whatever is going to be, is going to be. I’m fascinated who we are going to end up with because I have not got a clue.
During auditions you have been comparing Nicole to Antiques Roadshow can you explain what you mean by that? When I watch Antiques Roadshow it always makes me laugh because when someone’s sitting there with the object all they really care about is how much it’s worth, then you get the expert talking about the history, and I know what they are thinking, which is, ‘Don’t care about that, how much is it worth?’. Nicole’s like that when she’s about to give someone a yes or a no. All they want at that point is a yes or a no, but she’s going on with more comments and guidance, when all they’re thinking is, ‘Give me a yes, give me a yes!’. She doesn’t get that.
Are you proud though that the national conversation is always about The X Factor rather than other shows? Yeah, it’s like when people were speculating whether the show would go on air, that was never even a consideration because the show is on air for nearly five months. It always gets high numbers. It’s a show that you have strong opinions about, you either love it or hate it but you do talk about it. When people aren’t talking about you, by the way, then it’s over. So that’s what I am conscious about. What I do like about this world that we live in is that there are so many people who do talk to you, you can get a really quick consensus online about whether you are doing something wrong or right.
Rylan’s on Xtra, how did that come about?
I missed the year he was on the show so I don’t know him that well. I’ve met him but everyone wanted him on the show, I mean everyone. Literally, Louis is obsessed with him. He talked to me more about Rylan coming on the show than he did about himself returning. So I don’t know what he’s done to Louis but he wanted him, he got him, it’s going to be fun. I think the combination of him and Matt is going to be interesting, what I basically said is, ‘You make the show you want to make.’ I’m excited.
How is it having Dermot back?
He came to see me in LA about three months ago and I hadn’t seen him for a while. I was so happy to see him, I think he thought it was going to be an awkward conversation. I just said, ‘There’s nothing to be awkward about, I should have phoned you, you should have phoned me, everyone misses you so come back’. That was it and I think it’s been good in a way because I think you can take him for granted. I think Olly and Caroline did a great job but the public relate this show to Dermot, so now he’s back, and even I look at him in the clips and think, ‘God, he’s so good!’.
So do you regret losing him last year?
No, I don’t regret any decisions because you have got to make some changes occasionally to see if things work or not.
One of the big changes this year is that you’ve gone back to the audition room...
I hate it! Personally, I’ve found it a nightmare. That’s probably why people like it so much. I find it so uncomfortable, so awkward, I can’t stop laughing, I have a real problem with that, and the contestants are like five feet away from you. When you’re in a big arena it’s a lot easier, you have the public behind you. When they come in and they are really bad, there’s literally nowhere to hide. It’s really awkward. But I get why people like it, artists have got to evolve in these competitions, you start o small, then you get to a bigger stage, then even bigger, and that’s more interesting.
How are you feeling about the level of talent you have this year?
I have always believed, and the day I stop believing is the day I stop making the show, that there is always talent in this country. You don’t have to find loads, if you can find one, and normally the one you find is the person with masses of talent but doesn’t know what to do with it, it’s our job to spot that. Luckily over the years we’ve always been able to spot that. I think there are three or four contestants who have real potential and are di erent from what we have had before.
You’ve been encouraging Nicole to sing during the auditions...
Listen, it doesn’t take much persuasion to get Nicole to sing Memories, it’s like, ‘Will you...’, and she says, ‘YES!’. But do you know what? She’s a brilliant mimic, I just discovered that. She can do the best Britney impersonation I have ever seen! She’s funny but always likes to prove she’s a singer as well, and that makes me laugh.
You also had your first contestant engagement during auditions...
Yeah, I was thinking what would have happened if we had said no to them! I like it when things like that happen on the show, it’s interesting.
There have also been a few foreign acts this year...
I always say that if you don’t like people then you honestly can’t do this show. I like the fact people fly in from everywhere because they want to be on the British show. I take it as a bit of a compliment. That makes it, for me, more interesting. People ask why we would have people on from another country, and I say, ‘Why wouldn’t you?’.
You like contestants to be naughty and one crashed onto set, what did you think about that? That was brilliant! She had had enough of waiting. For whatever reason she wasn’t going to get in front of us to audition that day but she was fantastic because she found her way through the back of the stage, got in front of us and that’s exactly the sort of person I like working with, someone who’s a bit naughty and breaks the rules.
What can you tease about the live shows?
We’re going to make a couple of changes to the live shows. There will be one feature that we’ve been talking about for a while which I am excited about. It’s going to make the shows more fun. All will be revealed soon, it’s good!
Are you prepared for the rest of the judges to be naughty?
They can be as bad as they want, I don’t care anymore! At the end of the day I still want us to find a star. Our track record is great, the amount of people who have walked through our doors and gone on to have a career is huge, that’s what I am most proud about. How we get there, I don’t care anymore as long as the last two or three standing have the chance of a career in the real world. I can be tortured as much as they want along the way!
Britain has been gripped by a lot of doom and gloom lately, do you hope The X Factor will put a smile back on everyone’s face? What the show does stand for is that there are no rules, and what’s important, is we actually welcome anyone on this show. Literally anyone. Do you know what the great thing about the public is? They are fair. Whether you are English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, or from somewhere else in the world, if you’ve got talent they will vote for you. A lot of people are saying it’s doom and gloom in this country at the moment, it’s not, it is what it is and I promise you this show will be a lot of fun.
Finally, which judge will win?
See ALL the behind the scenes and the glam shot photos
The X Factor returns on Saturday and Sunday this weekend.