'The X Factor': Simon Cowell talks first live show, eliminations and his odds on winning
Khloe Kardashian and Mario Lopez assume their hosting duties, Britney Spears faces the challenge of live TV, and 16 acts compete to give the performance of their lives just to survive Thursday night's first eliminations.
Simon Cowell held a conference call with journalists to discuss Britney, Khloe, his role as mentor to the groups, and what we can expect from both tonight's first live show and Thursday's eliminations. Strap yourselves in "X Factor" fans, this could be a bumpy ride.
On how Britney Spears is handling the demands of being a judge/mentor...
Simon Cowell: "I think she's been a lot better than everybody thought. She's very engaged. She's very, very into her contestants. She thinks she can win the competition. I don't know what she's going to be like on a live show because we haven't done one yet and it's a very, very different setup than the auditions because at this point, the judges are competing with each other. So, I don't know how she's going to cope with that part, but I think she's excited about the shows. She has been, I think, a very, very good judge."
On what he thought about getting the groups as his mentoring assignment...
"Well, I mean the groups are a million times better than last year and I've had a lot of success with groups over the years. Some of them I could really, really see having a big future outside this competition and that will be witnessed [on the live show]. I mean one group in particular are just off the charts."
On how his groups stack up against the other categories...
"Obviously, Britney's category, which is the Young Teens, are really, really strong and they're going to be popular. They're going to get a lot of votes. I think Demi's got a good category, but I'm not sure she's got a winner. Maybe one girl has a shot; Janelle I think her name is, who I really, really like. She could be a little bit of a dark horse and L.A., no chance whatsoever."
"I think everybody in a way wanted [Britney's] category because we have two or three kids in the category who are super, super talented this year. Britney, she got them and she was absolutely thrilled. From what I hear, because I actually haven't heard them sing yet, she's doing a pretty good job. I mean we'll find out whether that's true or not because it's her responsibility to choose the songs, give them confidence. I would say that's the category every judge fears is going to probably do really well."
On the plans for Thursday's first elimination show...
"16 people are going to perform on Wednesday and then at the top on the Thursday show, we're going to reveal which contestants are safe. The ones who aren't safe are going to go into a series of sing-offs, one against one and then a number of them are going to get eliminated. I'm not going to say the exact numbers yet because we want to tell the contestants live on TV what's going to happen.
"Like we did with the sing-off at the end of the normal result shows, all [the judges will] have a vote. We probably won't all agree, but we have to agree on this. Then whoever's left will go into next Wednesday's show to face the public vote for the first time."
On Khloe Kardashian's trial by fire in the host role...
"Well, it's been a problem because we brought the show forward a days. So, that's one less day's rehearsal. So, she's going to have nerves of steel when she goes in there tomorrow, but my attitude is we could have prerecorded it, which I think would have made it boring. On live TV things do go wrong and that's probably one of the reasons why we always go live. I kind of like to see the unpredictable and I quite like seeing people under pressure and just how they deal with it. You don't want robots. You want human beings."
"I don't know her well, but when she came over to my house the other day, I mean she really has got a fun personality. I think she gets what her role is. I think she's there to be a voice for the contestants and to have fun with it. When you want to go off script I mean I always think that's more fun rather than someone just reading off a teleprompter.
"[The hosts are] there to have opinions and I think it was lacking last season. The host [Steve Jones], he didn't seem to have an opinion on any of the performances and I think it's important with hosts that they are allowed to pitch in as well as the judges. If they disagree with the judges, they're entitled to say something."
On the trend in music competition shows of celebrity judges overshadowing the contestants...
"Well, it shouldn't. I mean these shows can only work if you've got good and engaging contestants. If it has to rely on the judges, you've got a real problem. I can remember the first year I did a show in America, I mean all I remember from that show was the fact that Kelly Clarkson won and that, to me, obviously was the most important part. Maybe in the early parts of the show, on the auditions, the judges have a little bit more to do, but when it comes to live shows, it's 90% about the contestants.
"As a viewer, you've got to believe that you're watching someone who not only could win the competition, but potentially could be a star. That's the exciting part about watching these live shows. Like I said, I've been down to some of the rehearsals. I think people are going to get blown away by the talent this year. It's so much better than what we did last year."