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Dial M for Mushy

By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, June 15, 2006

"We live in a fame epidemic right now -- everyone wants to be famous," Simon Cowell told the Reporters Who Cover Television this week during a conference call to promote his NBC talent competition "America's Got Talent," which debuts Wednesday.

Lucky thing for him, too, because, what with Fox's ratings-game-changer "American Idol," ABC's spring series "American Inventor" and "America's Got Talent," Cowell has pretty much cashed in on the disease, even though "American Inventor" was something of a ratings bust, though it just was reordered for a second season.

In the U.K., where he also produces various competition series, the epidemic is even worse, says the British Cowell.

"Unfortunately it's a worldwide problem and it's getting worse by the day," he said disingenuously.

Simon's not allowed to appear on air on "America's Got Talent," per his very cushy "Idol" deal with Fox. Instead U.K. "media personality" Piers Morgan will play Simon Lite on the show, joining fellow judges David Hasselhoff and pop singer Brandy. Regis Philbin will host the weekly show in which singers, dancers, comics and some guy who balanced a 300-pound oven on his face while cooking three eggs on it compete to win a million-dollar prize.

For most of the rest of yesterday's call, Cowell and Philbin sucked up to each other. It was revolting; we like Nasty Simon much better than Lamby Simon.

Lamby Simon says things like:

· "I thought I was being celebrity-punked by someone," when told Rege was interesting in hosting the show.

· "I never in a million years dreamed I could get Regis; it was the quickest and easiest decision any of us had to make. . . . NBC said yes in a millionth of a second and was doing cartwheels."

· "You bring star power to a show, it makes everything so much easier. The impact he had on the judges, on everyone who auditioned -- everyone just went nuts. It's very rare when that happens on a new show."

· "I mean every word of that, Regis. It's brilliant having you on it."

Lamby Simon also says Regis is "better looking, less vain, better at ad-libbing" than "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest.

"And, he likes me," Simon added. Gak!

Rege returned the favor by saying that while he loves "American Idol" because it gives "all those young people a chance to get up there and show their stuff and maybe hit the pot of gold," quite frankly "it was Simon Cowell who single-handedly caught the attention of the whole country and brought them to this show. He wasn't afraid to call it the way he saw it. . . . People tuned in to see exactly what he was going to say."

"Regis, I love you -- I love you, Regis. I need this on a daily basis. I do appreciate it. Thank you. Thanks for that, Regis," Simon gushed.

See what I mean? Revolting.

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