Simon Cowell, creator of the ratings-lean singing competition series “The X Factor” got on the phone with The Reporters Who Cover Television Wednesday afternoon to say “X Factor” and “The Voice” in the same sentence as “American Idol” as many times as possible in 25 minutes.
In that way, he hoped to train the reporters to think of all three shows as being equals.
But, “American Idol” is averaging more than 21 million viewers this season on Wednesday nights, and NBC’s “The Voice” is averaging around 20 million (including the post-Super Bowl episode that had logged an eye-popping 38 million viewers)
Meanwhile, Cowell’s “The X Factor” averaged 13 million over its fall first season — not bad for a new TV series these days, but not in the same league as the other two shows (NBC has announced it’s moving ”The Voice” to the fall next season, where it will take on “The X Factor”) And, that 13 million is a far cry from the 20 million Simon had so confidently forecast for his show before its premiere.
It’s part of an ongoing “we’re one big happy singing-show family” campaign Simon is waging these days. Last week, for instance, he tweeted “Maybe the winner of [‘The X Factor’] this yr should compete with the winner of The Voice & Idol in a super final. Just a thought. I’d be up for it”
On Wednesday’s call, he admitted he’d been disappointed in the other two shows’ reactions. And he instructed the obsequious reporters on the phone call, “You know what, you guys, if you push it, it might happen!”
But the campaign did not stop there. On the call, someone asked Simon if he intended to retain the format in which each week the two X-testants with the fewest viewers votes has to sing to survive and the judges decide which of the two gets the hook.
"Going forward I think it's really important that we retain this,” Simon began.
“It adds a bit of drama to the end of the results show and more importantly, like I said before, it is intended -- we call it The Jennifer Hudson save. If this process had been in place on ‘Idol’ that week, Jennifer would have still remained in the competition probably. When it's done properly, it is supposed to help the better artists."
Jennifer Hudson, of course, famously competed, not on “The X Factor” but on “American Idol” back in 2004, when Simon was one of the judges. What has come to be known as The Jennifer Hudson Save was actually initiated on “Idol” a few seasons later, and is a one-time thing in which the “Idol” judges can bring back into the derby an Idolette who got that week’s fewest viewer votes. “The X Factor” survival-sing is a very different beast.
Also on the conference call, Simon confirmed there would be two hosts replacing dumped first-season host Steve Jones. He also confirmed that only chicks need apply to replace judges Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger, who got pushed off the show after the first season.
The producers were NOT having conversations with the camp of the late Whitney Houston about the possibility she would be one of the replacements, the show’s only other returning judge, LA Reid said on the phone call. “There was an interest there but never actually had a meeting about it.”
And Simon refused to “confirm or deny” reports Britney Spears has reached out to them, and that they’re having discussions with Janet Jackson, Fergie, Pink, blah, blah, blah.
But there’s no rush, he said, because the open auditions that begin early next month are not televised and they have weeks yet to pick their Paula and Nicole replacements. “We really waited to see who would contact us, before we actually contacted people,” Simon said. “We are in that place now, which is a good place to be in,” he said of the show, which stumbled in the ratings in its first season, leading to the wholesale dumping of half its judges and its host.
And if that’s a good place to be, I’m the Queen of Freedonia.