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Is Simon faking his audition show ‘irritation’?

Simon Cowell does look irritated quite frequently but his agitation isn't an act. He sits and listens to terrible, attention-seeking singers for hours at a time, days in a row.
/ Source: contributor

Wondering about how a certain reality show pulled something off? Have a question about a certain contestant?

Whether it's “Survivor,” “American Idol,” “The Apprentice,” “Real World” or another show, send in your questions. Andy Dehnart,'s Television Editor and creator of Reality Blurred, will try to answer them.

Q: Why is Simon always (pretending to be) so agitated with the ‘weak’ auditioners? Since the audition judges at the arenas are intentionally choosing many bad singers (and acts), Simon needs to stop acting so surprised and disgusted because, really, it is no longer funny or entertaining. — Laurie R., Fenton, Mich.

A: That's an interesting question, especially because Simon has actually been criticized for being nicer this year. Yes, the typically mean judge has been supportive, caring, and even kind. And he has given more hugs than I can remember him ever giving to rejected contestants. (Simon Cowell hugs strangers?)

Still, when the ridiculous contestants show up to perform in front of Paula, Randy and Simon, Cowell does look irritated quite frequently. But I don't think his agitation is an act. He sits and listens to terrible, attention-seeking singers for hours at a time, days in a row. While we see an edited version of the auditions, highlighting only the best, worst and most ridiculous singers, he and the other judges see many more people. The producers have narrowed the field, certainly, but he still has to suffer through those that remain.

Considering how much he's paid to endure that, however, we shouldn't feel sorry for him, and you'd think he'd even be smiling the entire time. Last year, CBS' “60 Minutes” reported that Simon Cowell is paid more than $30 million a year for his work on “American Idol.”

Of course, he makes that much money to be the crotchety, bitter, mean judge, and looking bored may just be part of his shtick.

Ultimately, Simon knows the game, and so whether he's actually annoyed or not, he's the show's star because he often says and does what we're thinking — like being bored with the same old bad singers.

And as you point out, his responses are so familiar that they've become boring. Perhaps that explains why fewer people are watching the auditions. Its first night, 33.2 million viewers tuned in, the lowest-rated debut since “American Idol 3,” and it lost three million of those viewers the second night. The final audition episode was watched by 26 million people — still a heck of a lot better than any other show on television, but perhaps proof that it's getting very old and tired for everyone involved.

Q: Are there any reality shows where young children are involved other than “The Amazing Race?” (young = 16 and under) — Cory

A: There are many shows that feature teenagers and kids under 16 as their stars. The most high-profile one, “Kid Nation,” aired last fall on CBS. The network cast for a second season of the show, which lets 40 kids create their own society, but it has yet to be officially renewed.

Perhaps the longest-running kids' reality show still on the air is “Endurance,” which is currently in its sixth season. It is essentially “Survivor” for pre-teens and teens ages 12 to 15. Its sixth season, set in Fiji, is currently airing on Saturday nights. Fiji-set episodes air on Saturday nights. “Trading Spaces: Boys vs. Girls” aired four seasons on DK, and allowed kids to redecorate each others' rooms. It is no longer producing new episodes, but repeats still air.

Many other networks have aired kid-focused series in the past, and will likely do so in the future. Last year, TLC's “My Life as a Child” gave video cameras to young kids and let them film their own lives. Earlier, PBS aired two different documentary series, “American High” and “Senior Year,” that followed teenagers in high school.

This coming fall, the syndicated series “Gladiators 2000,” a competition series based on “American Gladiators” that was hosted by a 19-year-old Ryan Seacrest, will be rebroadcast, although there are no plans yet to restart the series.

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The Disney Channel has aired reality series such as “Totally In Tune,” which followed kids at a music school, and “Bug Juice,” which followed kids at summer camp for two seasons.

Last year, Shaquille O'Neal helped overweight kids ages 11 to 14 lose weight on ABC's “Shaq's Big Challenge,” while in 2005, the network aired “Brat Camp,” a U.S. version of a UK series that follows teenagers with behavior problems who go through a rehabilitation program in the wilderness.

Also last year, the BBC aired a show in the UK modeled somewhat after Harry Potter. “The Sorcerer's Apprentice” was a competition between kids who learned how to perform (fake stage) magic from magicians.

Finally, some network and cable shows include kids along with adults, such as ABC's “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” UPN's “Under One Roof” and Bravo's “Sports Kids Moms & Dads,” which focused on athletic kids' obsessive parents.

Q: The winner of Survivor wins $1 million. How much to the other 15 runners-up make? — Sid C., San Diego, Calif.

A: They earn different amounts, depending upon when they were voted off the show — and depending upon what season they were on.

Typically, the first person out receives $2,500, runners-up get $100,000, and the others receive increasing amounts depending upon how long they stick around.

A few years ago, we answered a version of this question about “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race,” and listed prize amounts, although those assumed a 16-person cast and one runner-up (not two, as in recent seasons.) This season, “Survivor Micronesia,” has 20 contestants, so the prize amounts will vary.

During the all-star season, the first person out, Tina Wesson, received $25,000, 10 times the normal amount — although that season's winner, Amber Brkich, only received $1 million. All cast members receive a payment of $10,000 for showing up to the reunion show.

By the way, the very first person voted out of the very first season of “Survivor,” Sonja Christopher, donated her $2,500 to her church, which used that as the seed money to start a campaign that recently raised $1 million. And that first season's million-dollar winner, Richard Hatch, is currently in jail after being convicted of failing to pay taxes on those winnings.