Cowell's new show, "The X-Factor," seems to take a swipe at "American Idol" -- a rare move considering both shows air on the Fox network.
The latest "Factor" promo starts off with Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and others in syrupy mode -- praising mediocre performers for their "spirit," only to find out this is a dream --actually, a nightmare -- of Cowell's.
The scene then shifts into the real Cowell, calling people "horrific," "total rubbish" and the like. It delivers what we want to see with Cowell -- complete with an occasional rolling of eye in light of a Paula Abdul remark.
The message: "X-Factor" may be an even harder-edged -- and hopefully more dramatic -- show than "Idol" and other performance reality shows. Joining in this theme, music producer Antonio L.A. Reid says at one point that he would like to "slit his wrists."
The "spirit" remark reminds some of what Jennifer Lopez said as an "American Idol" judge -- she loved the "spirit" of some contestants. Mind you, even with the "soft" approach of "Idol," it still ranked as the best-viewed show on network television.
Still, does this equate to some in-fighting on the same team? There are business managers and entertainment players who believe this kind of competitive edge brings out the best stuff.
The marketing strategy is a good one, and I don't think it directly targets "Idol." Many performance shows don't really bring the drama, the frankness, the crushing criticism that makes performers wilt before they make it back to their dressing room.
We need to crush our on-air performers -- and then resurrect them. It's the primetime way of TV.
"The X Factor" promo sends this message: We can be the most honest-- and yes nastiest -- performance reality show in the land. Think others are honest about mediocre singing performances? You are wrong. No one can outdo Cowell. He is the reigning champ. Come and see the show.
At the end of the spot, he says: "What else did you expect?" Exactly what he shows us -- and then some.