Panel discusses success of Fox series

According to exec producer Ken Warwick, “American Idol” has become a ratings juggernaut because of two words: “You suck.”

It’s Simon Cowell’s brutal honesty that has allowed “Idol” to rise above other series — specifically reality shows that involve competition among contestants. Audiences appreciate the honesty.

After all, the WB launched the ill-fated “Popstars” before “Idol,” but producers made sure all the comments were positive.

“You never had a show where someone would say, ‘You suck.’ That makes all the difference,” Warwick said on the first night of the Museum of TV and Radio’s William S. Paley Festival, held at the Directors Guild.

Added Fox reality guru Mike Darnell: “We were allowed to make a politically incorrect show. I think only Fox would let us do that.”

Also on the panel were judges Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson. Host Ryan Seacrest, who hosts a local radio show, made a quick introduction before bailing out and get some sleep after being awake for 20 hours.

Discussion highlights among the group included Cowell reaffirming his distaste for last year’s champ Taylor Hicks (“They loved Taylor,” he said, pointing to his fellow judges. “I couldn’t stand him.”), making sure the show remains a singing competition and not a popularity contest and former contestants who turn their back on “Idol” after making it big.

Cowell commented on the sudden crying spat among this year’s group. In Thursday’s show, there was enough waterworks to drench a football field. He revealed the crying often dissipates when the cameras turn off.

“Why would you cry if one of your competitors is knocked off?” he asked. “In reality, they’re all doing cartwheels.”

In addition, Warwick said, despite rumors, neither Paul McCartney nor George Martin will appear this season due to scheduling conflicts, but there will be a British invasion week featuring artists from the U.K.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more