Pop Culture

Simon Cowell launches ‘America’s Got Talent’

Simon Cowell’s new TV talent show promises to be a real circus.

Singers, comedians, jugglers, animal acts and anyone else hungry for stardom will be welcome on “America’s Got Talent,” the summertime series that Cowell, the tart-tongued judge on Fox’s “American Idol,” is producing for NBC.

Group acts or singles, old or young — all are eligible to try for the $1 million prize, he told a telephone news conference Monday.

“You can be 2 years old, 100 years old. You can be the next Destiny’s Child, you can be the next Jackson 5 or you can be the next David Copperfield,” Cowell said. “This is a show literally open to anybody.”

Auditions dates were announced Monday, with tryouts set for Los Angeles on April 6-8; Chicago, April 12-13; New York City, April 17; East Elmhurst, N.Y., April 19, and Atlanta, April 22-23. Would-be contestants also can apply online.

An air date for the series has yet to be set, NBC said.

Cowell, an English record-company executive who became a celebrity on “American Idol” and was part of its British precursor, “Pop Idol,” said he’s a longtime fan of American shows that featured a variety of performers.

More ‘brutal’ than ‘Idol’?The “time is right” for a contest open to performers of every stripe, he said. Cowell won’t be a judge on the show but very qualified “A-list” celebrities have expressed interest, he and fellow executive producer Ken Warwick said.

Cowell was asked about whether he was aware of Wayne Newton’s “The Entertainer,” which ran on E! Television Network last year and had a similar goal of showcasing diverse talent.

“Yes. And I hated it,” he said.

For such shows to work, Cowell said, it’s crucial to include the audition process. In “America’s Got Talent,” as in “American Idol,” viewers will learn who makes the cut in the five city auditions and then see further dismissals as the semifinals unfold in a Los Angeles studio.

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How the semifinalists are dumped will be “very brutal,” Cowell said. He didn’t offer details.

Cowell, who’s joined ranks with the “American Idol” producing team on “America’s Got Talent,” is apparently intent on giving every American — and every TV network — a chance for fame and fortune: He’s also producing “American Inventor” on ABC.

“American Idol” is a consistent ratings leader for Fox. “American Inventor” scored as a top-20 show in its March 16 debut against college basketball but now has to prove itself against CBS’ tougher “Survivor.”

Does Cowell fear diluting the valuable “American Idol” brand?

No, he said. Instead, he hopes that “America’s Got Talent” will be a different type of show that fills the gap when “Idol” is off the air.

Asked if the new show might compete directly against Fox’s, Cowell replied: “That will never happen.”

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