Simon Cowell has chosen his panel of judges for The X Factor's American debut. Former American Idol judge Paula Abdul and British pop singer Cheryl Cole were named by the celebrity as his final choices.
Fox's American arm of The X Factor international franchise is preparing for a explosive debut this fall. With an unprecedented $5 million top prize and Cowell himself as the star attraction, the show is set to become the next reality blockbuster with Cowell announcing last week that he was leaving the British version, which he has produced and judged for seven years, to launch the U.S. version.
American Idol watchers will be familiar with Paula Abdul, who judged contestants alongside Cowell from the series debut in 2002 until 2009. She produced and judged Live To Dance for CBS, which started this spring but was subsequently cancelled. Despite allegations of substance abuse, few could question her qualifications, as she's been a professional singer and dancer for almost thirty years.
Cheryl Cole has been a judge for The X Factor in Britain since 2008, replacing Sharon Osbourne. She "won" the competition two years in a row, fostering the winning contestants. Cole has become a pop culture diva in her own right, with a talk/variety show and a solo music career. It's not known if Cole will keep her spot on the British version.
No contracts have been signed as of yet - Cowell simply announced that he had chosen the women for the program. But given the working relationship between all three and the sheer amount of money Fox is spending on The X Factor, it's hard to imagine that either will decline. Def Jam icon and record producer L.A. Reid will round out the panel.
Cowell spoke briefly on his choices, noting that he expected great things of Cole despite being the second British judge in the American version. He also had some less-than-careful words for Abdul:
"[Cheryl Cole] is special. She's just got a great ability to communicate. Shes a great judge. She's smart. It's just a hunch. If people take to her like the British public did, I think she's going to do really well in America. And Fox was desperate to hire her. ...I've always wanted Paula. Always been very vocal about that. I missed her the second she left the show. Always loved working with her even though she can be a pain. And I've been consistent about this... I've never found anyone better than her."
Despite the obvious similarities, The X Factor is a different beast from its progenitors Pop Idol and American Idol. The show is open to hopefuls as young as 12, and splits contestants into categories based on age and solo/group acts. Each judge is assigned a category that he or she guides, with the top contestants squaring off at the end of the season.
Preliminary tryouts for The X Factor are already underway, with a premiere expected in September on Fox.