Here's how power works in Hollywood:
When a rival TV network decides to rip off your signature show, they call to tell you first.
That's what onetime American Idol star Simon Cowell said happened as NBC developed its singing competition The Voice, which bears a passing resemblance to the new show he's developing for Fox, The X Factor.
Since Cowell also owns and executive produces NBC's biggest summer hit, America's Got Talent, guess who got a courtesy call to avoid any toe-stepping problems?
"I said, 'Do whatever you want, but if you deliberately try to steal (elements) with the intention of ruining my show, then we don't have a relationship anymore,' " Cowell said. "I spoke to Paul (Telegdy, NBC/Universal alternative programming executive) about it. … He's under massive pressure from his bosses with the success of The X Factor in the U.K. and Idol in America."
Cowell may say he's nervous about The X Factor's fall debut. But he exuded a courteous confidence during a short telephone call to promote the start of the show's auditions, which come to the BankUnited Center in Coral Cables on Thursday.
NBC could have asked you to make The Voice.
I wouldn't have made the show. I only saw the preview, the promo tape, and I burst out laughing. It's just too gimmicky.
You know, artists like the Who's Roger Daltrey have blamed your British X Factor for killing the music industry.
Well, I've never understood really what their issue was. We're getting people back into record shops. I think it's just a question of turning into a grumpy old man, particularly somebody like Roger Daltrey. You know, like, when your dad years ago would say turn the music down?
I remember when TV looked down on the music industry; now shows like Idol are its biggest hits.
(That) is why I made Idol in the first place. I got so fed up with having to beg to get my artists on TV shows because, as you said, there were so few spots available and the spots were terrible. And that was one of the reasons we made (X Factor) — that we could own the platform.
The judges on American Idol seem to be tolerating performances you never would.
I know what you mean.
But has Idol's success with being nice made your in-your-face honesty less popular?
I think everybody's happy with (Idol's) decision. When X Factor comes on, it's not going to be like that; it won't have that kind of apple-pie, constantly smiling, whatever it is. I just couldn't make a show like that, to be honest with you. But I'm not knocking them. It's just not what I would do.
How are X Factor contestants different from Idol's?
We want somebody who's reflecting what is happening in the charts today; and don't be afraid to audition if you're that kind of artist.
So a Lady Gaga might be too distinctive for Idol but could work on X Factor?
A hundred percent. And you can see that on Idol, you know. There's a certain look of Idol contestants and I think The X Factor will be a very, very different kind of look, which, again, I think is a good thing.
Any advice for people auditioning?
Certainly, to anyone under the age of 18 … do not listen to your parents. Don't listen to them in terms of the song choice, don't let them choose what you're going to wear, particularly the 12-, 13- , 14-year-olds because we used to get a lot of these kids who were practically shoved on by their parents in the wings, singing horrific versions of Annie while their mother was sort of mouthing it in the wings. I'm really making it clear: The kids have got to make their own mind up this year.