‘X Factor’ producers promise something different

Simon Cowell talks via satellite at TCA panel

Producers for fall Fox talent show ”The X Factor” insist that auds will immediately grasp the reality skein’s differences from its ”American Idol” forerunner, and also don’t believe that the singing competish space on TV is overcrowding.

”X Factor,” which premieres Sept. 21 on Fox with a live season finale scheduled for Dec. 22, features ”Idol” expatriates Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul as well as a glitz and framework that broadly echoes the long-running Fox behemoth. The creative team said that the similarities are being overstated.

”I wouldn’t have made the show unless I thought it was going to be different,” Cowell, who is exec producing, said during the program’s panel at the Television Critics Assn. press tour.

”We see this as a game changer. We’re going to change the rules. We’re trying to find completely different kind of contestants.”

The biggest boilerplate change between the shows is an age range on ”X Factor” that ranges from 12 to 112 (divided into categories of male and female solo singers, older singers and groups). Allowing performers three years younger than ”Idol” does came on the recommendation of Fox alternative topper Mike Darnell, who said it’s but one of many distinctions.

”There’s a little bit you can’t express,” Darnell added, ”a little bit of pixie dust that’s on the show. When you watch the live show, when you have a feel for the shows, they feel very different from ‘American Idol.”’

The debate is more than philosophical, with the lawsuit by ”Idol” creator Simon Fuller against Fox and FremantleMedia North America over the creative auspices of ”X Factor.” Asked to comment on the litigation, FremantleMedia North America CEO Ceclie Frot-Coutaz, who exec produces both ”Idol” and ”X,” limited herself to saying that ”lawsuits are the cost of doing business.”

As far as the bevy of singing skeins, which gained a new member this spring in NBC up-and-comer ”The Voice,” Frot-Coutaz compared it to the abundance of procedurals on TV.

”The idea that there was going to be only one singing competition (show) in America was crazy,” Cowell commented.

One distinction Darnell didn’t try to make was one between the U.K. and U.S. versions of ”X Factor.”

”I actually told (Cowell) to make it more English, as English as possible,” Darnell said. ”I’m not a believer in Americanizing these shows. I believe if they are working over there, they will work over here.”

Fox entertainment prexy Kevin Reilly tried to take the pressure of the Stateside launch, saying that ”X” is not ”the mother of all shows” with shows including ”Terra Nova” premiering on the network this fall.

”If (”X Factor”) can do half of what we hope it will do in the fall, Fox is going to be very difficult to reckon with,” Reilly said.

For his part, Cowell isn’t lowering his sights one bit.

”You don’t enter something for the silver medal,” he said. ”You do it because you want to be No. 1.”

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