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Yo Dawgs, Where’s Everybody Going?: Simon Cowell Leaves Idol to “Create” Same Show on Same Network

January 17, 2010

Let’s say, as a matter of hypothesis, that you put together an amazing sandwich.

It took you a while to make, but it tastes great. You made one just like it, a few years ago, but this one is just as good. Then, you tell me you that you’d like to make another one. I’m skeptical that you can pull it off, but you have a secret — it’s the same sandwich you’ve already made twice. Somehow, you manage to convince me not only to let you make another sandwich, but to pay you millions to do it.

What this metaphor denotes, in a nutshell, is that Simon Cowell has pulled off an amazing game of three-card monte with the FOX Network. On the heels that he will be leaving his post as the cantankerous judge of American Idol comes the news that he’ll be developing a new show for FOX called The X-Factor. Paula, of course, already left a few months ago. All this purports to leave Randy Jackson saddled with judging alongside new host Ellen Degeneres and God knows who else. You kind of feel bad for the bespectacled ex-Journeyman, as he’s about to go down with an increasingly obsolete ship.

To understand why Jackson’s in such a terrible spot means understanding a little bit about Idol and X-Factor’s history in the United Kingdom. Cowell and partner Simon Fuller created and debuted in 2001 a program called Pop Idol for Brit network ITV, and it was a massive success. The show’s talent-competition idea was simple: a vetting process in which thousands and thousands of singers come through the doors, whittled down to a select ten or twelve who face off weekly via process of judging and elimination. If it sounds familiar, it should — it’s the exact same format as what would later become American Idol, another massive success for Cowell and Fuller in the States.

Here’s the interesting thing, though. In 2004, the plug was pulled on Pop Idol and the hit was replace by another new show, The X-Factor (are things sounding familiar yet?), which is — in essence — the very same show. Young singers audition and compete against one another for a recording contract. Again, with Cowell at the helm, a giant success. But let’s face it, he knew it would be because it was really just an identical program to Pop Idol.

Cowell has pulled the same stunt on FOX, but he’s used their gullibility to take things one step further. While X-Factor premiered on ITV to replace Pop Idol, Cowell is just going to depart and run X-Factor on FOX also. Perhaps they were entranced by his hypnotic man-boobs; FOX nodded yes to Cowell’s proposition to develop X-Factor and as a result, the network is going to have two very, very similar shows running at the same time.

You have to admire Cowell’s hoodwinking. Not only did he convince the world that he is a giant in the field of music whose expertise is second to none (his actual credits include the Teletubbies, operatic boy-band Il Divo and the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, among Idol-born superstars like Ruben Studdard), but he’s found a way to rake in millions over the years by basically redoing the same show three times. And FOX allegedly even offered him $100 million to stay on Idol. Wow. This guy’s good.

I say kudos to Cowell — it takes a smooth operator to build his career by “creating” the same show four times in a row and each time, having the world go crazy over it. The last time we saw that was the Police Academy movies. Many might call this “mailing a career in,” but I salute you, Simon Cowell. It’s an impressive move to pull this kind of long con on a major television network. There’s even talk of him reuniting with Abdul on X-Factor, which will mean they also were able to milk all the Paula Abdul controversy to get eyes back on the Idol prize, and will milk it again when it’s announced — surprisingly — that Abdul and Cowell are going to work together once again. Nice.

Unfortunately, this hot new Idol-esque show will inevitably make American Idol obsolete, which is sad for judge Randy Jackson, who honestly is probably the only judge on the show with the credentials to back up any of his talk. He’ll be stuck judging an also-ran with one can only imagine will be a steady stream of “guest judges” who will become increasingly less and less impressive as X-Factor ramps up.

But hey, them’s the breaks, Randy. You gotta keep your eye on the queen, Randy. That’s what happens when you partner up with a master street hustler.

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