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Simon Cowell Says Goodbye to American Idol

Liz De La Torre

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Whether it’s “You are a complete and utter drama queen. I’ve never met anyone else in my life, with the exception of Paula, who was so desperate to be famous,” to a Top 36 contestant or “If it’s any consolation, you wouldn’t have won either” to a recently eliminated contestant, no one can deny that Simon Cowell is the surly American Idol judge people love to hate.

Cowell, who makes a whopping $36 million per year on American Idol, will be departing the show he has helped to launch into macro success after nine seasons. “I was offered a lot of money to stay on,” Cowell said. “But that wasn’t the reason behind it. I wanted to do something different. I wanted a new challenge.” In fact, Cowell announced that he will serve as an executive producer as well as a judge on the US version of The X Factor, the successful talent competition originally from the UK. The X Factor, a show which Simon Cowell created and owns, will be joining the FOX network in fall 2010.

So, what makes The X Factor so different from American Idol? Well, the age limit of the contestants is a huge part. Although American Idol has an age restriction from 16-28, Cowell says that his show actually starts as young as 14 with no limits on a maximum age—a decision that was influenced by 48 year-old Susan Boyle’s performance on Britain’s Got Talent.

As for American Idol, losing Simon Cowell would mean losing some of the luster that attracted so many viewers in the first place: “I think it’s that brand of sarcasm combined with professional know-how that makes Simon the audience magnet that he is,” analyst Shari Anne Brill claims. “I really believe the show revolves around him. He’s the linchpin of the show’s success. He has tremendous influence on how the audience votes. He’s interesting to listen to. He’s brutally honest.” Because Cowell’s tough criticism and harsh personality is what helped draw audiences to tune into the show to begin with, a drop in ratings and sink in popularity following his exit would not be shocking.

Nevertheless, talk show host Ellen DeGeneres replacing former judge Paula Abdul on American Idol will serve as a distracting yet exciting factor. She joins fellow judges Randy Jackson, Kara DioGuardi, and Simon Cowell, in his last season, this year. Though the choice to replace Abdul may be puzzling, Ellen DeGeneres’ guest spot on the dance competition, So You Think You Can Dance garnered the attention of the FOX network enough to reach a five-year contract with her. DeGeneres will continue hosting her show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and was just signed on for another three years. Preston Beckman, a FOX executive, says DeGeneres brings “something unique and will be the nurturing person on the show and create an interesting dynamic with Simon. But at the end of the day, it’s not on her shoulders to carry the show.”

Given that American Idol is recognized for propelling the careers of now worldwide sensations such as Kelly Clarkson, Chris Daughtry, and Carrie Underwood, as well as other contestants, Simon Cowell is nothing short of praising: “You want to leave on a high. I’m very proud of what the show has achieved.” As of now, no one has been named as a replacement for Cowell.

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Simon Cowell Says Goodbye to American Idol