Can’t keep a good man down

Si­mon Cow­ell is now an ex-fac­tor ... but not for long.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MUSIC - By Scott collinS

Not so long ago, Si­mon Cow­ell was prob­a­bly the most pow­er­ful man on Amer­i­can tV. His cranky, caus­tic judg­ing had helped make Amer­i­can Idol an in­vin­ci­ble No. 1 hit. As a pro­ducer, he makes Amer­ica’s Got Talent and sim­i­lar shows that have long been top sell­ers around the world. He ranked No. 17 on Forbes’ 2013 Celebrity 100 list, with es­ti­mated an­nual pay of US$95mil (RM313mil), and fa­mously pre­dicted that his own The X Fac­tor on Fox would ham­mer Idol, the singing con­test he left in a storm of pub­lic­ity in 2010.

And now? the hang­ing judge has fled the stage like a bad karaoke singer, leading many to won­der if the rapidly chang­ing tV busi­ness has outrun even some­one as savvy as Cow­ell.

Ear­lier this month Fox abruptly can­celled X Fac­tor af­ter three trou­bled sea­sons and af­ter a top ex­ec­u­tive at News Corp., which owns Fox, slapped the show for “dis­ap­point­ing” rat­ings. Likely to blunt the me­dia im­pact, word of the show’s fate came late on a Fri­day af­ter­noon just as the Amer­i­can broad­cast of the Win­ter olympics was get­ting un­der­way. Cow­ell – who sud­denly has no on-cam­era plat­form on a U.S. tV se­ries for the first time in well over a decade – was re­duced to ex­plain­ing the X Fac­tor bomb to his 9.4 mil­lion twit­ter fol­low­ers.

“Some­times we rest these shows,” Cow­ell wrote. “And that’s what we did in a crowded mar­ket” with the Amer­i­can ver­sion of X Fac­tor.

the 54-year-old Cow­ell – who was un­avail­able to com­ment fur­ther, his spokes­woman said – has re­turned to his na­tive coun­try to ap­pear on the orig­i­nal Bri­tish ver­sion, which is it­self flag­ging.

of course, hit shows don’t get “rested” af­ter three sea­sons ( Idol – whose ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer told re­porters that Cow­ell won’t be com­ing back to that show – is in its 13th).

But there’s lit­tle ques­tion that, squar­ing off against not just Idol but also NBC’s The Voice, X Fac­tor was get­ting lost in a crowd of singing com­pe­ti­tions. the prob­lems ran much deeper, though. Cow­ell and Fox of­ten seemed un­sure what they wanted X Fac­tor to be, and so the show ran through a dispir­it­ing and con­fus­ing gant­let of changes in pac­ing, pro­ce­dures, pro­duc­tion val­ues, hosts and even judges.

A sys­tem that gave each judge a cat­e­gory of per­form­ers to men­tor (young men and women, older singing acts) may have over­com­pli­cated what was sup­posed to be a fairly sim­ple premise.

Cow­ell raised eye­brows at the end of the first sea­son when, in an ex­ten­sive and seem­ingly whim­si­cal fit of house­keep­ing, he fired judge Paula Ab­dul, a friend and for­mer Idol col­league about whom he’d spo­ken warmly in the past (judge Ni­cole Scherzinger and host Steve Jones were also sacked). Sea­son two re­turned with an em­pha­sis on big, brassy pro­duc­tion val­ues.

“It was over­pro­duced,” said Scott Sternberg, a vet­eran re­al­ity tV pro­ducer who’s made shows with Ab­dul, Wil­liam Shat­ner and Paula Zahn. “the di­rec­tor spent more time in get­ting in the wide shots with all the light­ing and dig­i­tal ef­fects, but did not recog­nise (the im­por­tance of) be­ing tight on the faces of these per­form­ers ... X Fac­tor had very lit­tle heart.”

But find­ing the heart can be tough in a genre that has pulled au­di­ences to­ward ev­ery pos­si­ble emo­tional ex­treme and back again. View­er­ship for net­work re­al­ity se­ries has been steadily drift­ing down­ward as au­di­ences tire of the for­mat. ABC’s Dancing With The Stars and CBS’ Sur­vivor, for ex­am­ple, have seen sharp au­di­ence de­clines in re­cent years. And no ma­jor re­al­ity fran­chise has rein­vig­o­rated the for­mat on broad­cast in re­cent sea­sons.

“the re­al­ity genre is cool­ing for net­work tV,” said Jef­frey McCall, a me­dia stud­ies pro­fes­sor at DePauw Univer­sity. “Singing com­pe­ti­tion shows had a cer­tain charm at first, but au­di­ences surely can see by now that many of these acts are just too forced or demon­strate no more talent than can be found in a lo­cal pub or at the county fair.”

What’s more, McCall added, “there is a ton of re­al­ity tV on var­i­ous ca­ble chan­nels now, and the au­di­ence for re­al­ity pro­grams is now splin­tered in many di­rec­tions away from the big broad­cast net­works.”

Given the me­dia land­scape, Cow­ell did him­self no fa­vors by vow­ing to crush Idol. “X Fac­tor suf­fered from un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions,” McCall said. “Si­mon over­promised and un­der­per­formed.”

But vir­tu­ally all ob­servers agree that Amer­i­can fans shouldn’t worry that Cow­ell will com­pletely dis­ap­pear. In­deed, there have been ru­mours he might turn up this sum­mer in an on-cam­era role at Amer­ica’s Got Talent, al­though NBC has made no such an­nounce­ment yet.

through Syco En­ter­tain­ment – his joint ven­ture with Sony Mu­sic En­ter­tain­ment – Cow­ell still over­sees a global me­dia em­pire that pro­duces tV shows and pop mu­sic and is angling for a ma­jor push into fea­ture films. the boy band one Di­rec­tion – which Cow­ell helped dis­cover on the Bri­tish ver­sion of X Fac­tor in 2010 – is now one of the top-sell­ing pop acts in the world.

His X Fac­tor come­down, then, might yet prove to be a mere rest rather than a swan song. As Brad Adgate, an an­a­lyst for Hori­zon Me­dia in New York, put it: “I don’t nec­es­sar­ily think we’ve heard the last of Si­mon Cow­ell. He’s a suc­cess­ful me­dia en­tre­pre­neur – and the US is too big a mar­ket to walk away from.” – Los Angeles times/McClatchytri­bune In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices

Pow­er­ful: In 2013, Si­mon Cow­ell was ranked No. 17 on Forbes’ Celebrity 100 list with an es­ti­mated an­nual pay of uS$95mil (rM313mil).

Cow­ell has a new job – as a daddy! He wel­comed his son, eric, with girl­friend Lauren Sil­ver­man, on Valen­tine’s day.

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