The TV Column: Simon Cowell livens up press tour by a ‘Factor’ of $5 mil

August 5, 2011

After figuring out that most of America doubted the “$5 million recording contract” that Fox’s “The X Factor” announced it would award the show’s winner, show creator/star Simon Cowell announced Friday that it’s no longer a $5 million recording contract.

It’s now a $5 million cash prize — plus a recording contract.

Appearing via satellite at Summer TV Press Tour 2011, Simon also announced that the winner of the new singing competition, which debuts on Fox next month, would star in a Pepsi commercial during the Super Bowl — which, Simon gushed, “is unbelievable!”

We’re not sure why, given that Pepsi is the soft-drink sponsor of “X Factor” and has long been an advertiser in the Super Bowl broadcast, and its Pepsi MAX brand is the official soft drink of the NFL.

Anyway, Simon appeared super-impressed: “It’s something they gave Michael Jackson! Beyoncé! Britney Spears! It’s a money-can’t-buy prize!” he enthused, all the way from Hertfordshire, England.

The $5 million cash prize came as news to Pepsi, which in its official Super Bowl-ad announcement, noted that the winner’s ad, “in addition to the previously announced $5 million recording contract with Sony Music/Syco,” makes this “the most lucrative prize package in television history.”

It also came as news to “X Factor” judge and recording-industry bigwig L.A. Reid. When a TV critic, giving voice to America’s dubiousness, said he was “curious what goes into a   $5 million recording contract,” L.A. began to tap-dance:

“First of all, there are recording costs.” “There are cash advances.” “It’s the cost of the campaign.”

That’s when Simon interrupted with his big news, from his posh Hertfordshire sofa.

He insisted he’s not making an effort to make “X Factor” really mean because last season’s first Cowell-less season of “American Idol” went all nurturing with Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler added as judges. “Contestants are mean to us, and sometimes we can be harsh back,” Simon said.

The lower age limit on his show is 12 — because 12-year-olds, he said, are now “very cool and very switched on.” The youngest auditioners, he noted, were “more lippy than any other contestants I’ve ever met in my life.” “X Factor,” unlike “Idol,” has no upper age limit and the derby is open to solo singers and groups.

About halfway through the Q&A, Simon was cut off by the show’s gorgeously attired, super-slick British host, Steve Jones, who said: “I’m taking this puppy from here, ladies and gents.

“I know there’s a lot of speculation as to where Simon is. He’s in one of three places: his lair on the moon; aboard a death star; or at the ball pit of Chuck E. Cheese.”

The reporters in the room were operating at an advantage over Jones because they knew how to read. So they had gleaned from Fox’s printed material that Simon was appearing from Hertfordshire. “We don’t like this man!” one TV critic shouted, speaking for us all.

L.A. and the show’s other judges then walked onstage and joined in the fun. Paula Abdul did the Runway Walk in sparkly Louboutins. Nicole Scherzinger, former Pussycat Doll, did not. Fox’s head of reality programming, Mike Darnell, came to contribute the “it’s pixie dust” gag he always uses when talking about his shows.

Whenever Nicole or Paula tried to answer a question, Simon would make the “blah, blah, blah” hand gesture or cut her off with some snarky comment.

Paula, on being back on a show with Simon: “It’s nice to be back in a demented relationship. It’s like home.”

Simon: “It’s like ‘The Exorcist 2.’ ”

“It’s like Mummy and Daddy had a trial separation but now they’re back together,” Slick Stevie tried to jump in. But the TV critics and reporters, having decided to ignore him, did.

End of ‘Housewives’

The drama on “Desperate Housewives” continues: ABC will announce Sunday at TV Press Tour 2011 that the coming season will be the show’s last.

“Desperate” got nicked by NBC’s Sunday football broadcasts this past season, averaging about 12 million viewers — a far cry from the 24 million who watched the show’s first season.

ABC secured the services of cast members Felicity Huffman, Eva Longoria, Teri Hatcher and Marcia Cross for the coming eighth season, with an option for one more, noted Deadline.com. ABC would not comment for the record about the planned announcement.

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