Feb. 8, 2011 at 10:10 AM ET
Former “American Idol” judge Simon Cowell isn’t worried about the show he left behind. While Cowell prepares to present his own talent competition, the highly anticipated U.S. version of “The X-Factor," he’s certain that “Idol” is doing just fine without him.
Not that the man once known as “Mr. Mean” has actually watched an entire episode of his old series since his exit last season.
“It’s on a different time here in the U.K.,” Cowell told TODAY show host Matt Lauer during a Tuesday morning interview. “I watched some clips last week to get up to speed, and it looked good.”
That includes the new faces on the “Idol” panel. While the music-exec-turned-TV-producer didn’t share his specific thoughts about Jennifer Lopez or the oddly entertaining Steven Tyler, he gave them a positive review overall.
“I think they’re doing fine,” Cowell said. “You know, they have a different approach to what I used to do before. I think the show had to reinvent itself, and I think it’s right that it’s a different show (than) what we made before.”
As for the completely different show in Cowell’s future, the usually sharp-tongued judge showed his softer side when discussing the recent announcement that “The X-Factor” will allow hopefuls as young as 12 to compete for a recording contract. While on “Idol,” where the minimum age is 15, Cowell voiced concern about allowing anyone younger to go through the potentially grueling televised talent show routine. He still has that concern, but he also has a plan.
“Historically, I’ve seen a lot of these kiddie singers who looked as if they’d been pushed into the audition rooms by those awful stage moms, and I just hated it,” Cowell explained. “But what’s changed over the years is, you look at somebody like (10-year-old) Willow Smith now, and (Jackie Evancho) who did well on ‘America’s Got Talent,’ she was 11 years old, (and) you take it case-by-case. I work for a record label — I work for Sony — and what we’re seeing now is a new wave of 12, 13, 14-year-olds who actually didn’t watch ‘Idol’ years ago, and they’ve come about it in a completely different way. They want to be contemporary pop stars. So I thought long and hard about what the cut-off age should be. I’m going to give these kids a chance, but I’m going to take it case-by-case."
Viewers will get a chance to see that process for themselves when "X-Factor" premieres in the fall.