It was a bloodbath Monday as news broke that Fox’s X Factor had let go of not only host Steve Jones, but both female judges Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger. Abdul and show creator and judge, Simon Cowell both released back-to-back statements Tuesday confirming The Hollywood Reporter’s story on Monday.
“Yes, it’s true; I won’t be returning to The X Factor next season,” Abdul states.
“I’ve learned through my longevity in this industry that business decisions often times override personal considerations,” she continues. “Simon and I, along with Fox and Fremantle, have been communicating about this for a while now, and I have absolute understanding of the situation. Simon is, and will remain a dear friend of mine and I’ve treasured my experience working this past season with my extended family at Fox and Fremantle. I want nothing more than for The X Factor to exceed ALL of their wildest dreams. This truly has been a blessing and I am most grateful.”
X Factor Shake-Up: How Simon Cowell Fired Paula Abdul, Steve Jones, Nicole Scherzinger
While Fox reps didn’t immediately respond to reports that Abdul had been cut on Monday evening, Mike Darnell, President of Alternative Entertainment for the Fox Broadcasting Company released the following statement Tuesday morning.
“We love Paula. She is a remarkable talent and we appreciate all of her contributions,” he states. “We’re lucky that she is a part of the Fox family, and we look forward to working with her again soon.”
And when it rains, it pours. Moments after Abdul’s statement hit, Cowell released his official statement. “”I want to say a massive thank you to Paula, Nicole and Steve for being part of The X Factor last year,” he starts.
“We had a lot of fun making the show together and importantly, we found some real talent and stars. You do develop friendships with the people you work with and Paula, in particular, is a very close friend and I expect to be working with her on another project in the near future. I’m sure all three are going to have massive success in what they do next , but now is the time to thank them all for everything they did last year.”
The Hollywood Reporter uncovered the story of how Cowell fired his cohorts during a series of off-site meetings in the UK. According to a show insider, meetings are taking place wherein the show creator has assembled his team and creative brain-trust for a post-mortem. The purpose: detailing what went wrong and what was done right on season 1 of the Fox singing competition.
Among the brash verdicts, says THR’s source: That Abdul’s role was seen as “irrelevant to the mix,” in part through no fault of her own (as mentor to the groups, her contestants were picked off early in the competition).
Still, Abdul was not without her controversies on the show. Many blamed her for the dismissal of Season 1 favorite Rachel Crow, precipitated by advice Abdul gave to Scherzinger to let the decision be made by the public vote. America then sent the 13-year-old packing.
As for Jones and Scherzinger, another show insider says the X Factor host was notified by a show producer around 7:30pm ET on Monday evening that his option was not being picked up (Cowell did not call Jones personally to deliver the news). Soon after, Scherzinger was informed that her contract also would not be renewed, as well.
On the show, both had weathered their share of viewer criticism; Scherzinger even received death threats after she and Abdul voted to send finalist Drew Ryniewicz home. Jones’ handling of contestant eliminations, which some deemed insensitive, also came under fire as unscripted reactions became increasingly emotional.
The host and judge did not receive an explanation for the decision, but a source close to the show says Cowell has decided that the show needs a bigger celebrity on the panel next season.
A source close to LA Reid says the fourth member of the X Factor panel has not been informed of any change to his status as judge.
Why the surprise post-season slaughter? Insiders point to an issue of both truth and perception: Ratings. While The X Factor’s inaugural bow had numbers comparable to that of NBC’s The Voice, X Factor was seen as a disappointment while The Voice was deemed a success. In a way, Cowell could only blame himself — he was the one who set the bar extraordinarily high, telling THR in an August 2011 cover story that he was anticipating a viewership of 20 million.
Coming in some 8 million viewers short meant lost ad revenue and diminished profits on what was already one of the most expensive productions on television.
Also nagging at Cowell — with just about everything he touches — are the constant Idol comparisons and U.S. X Factor was no exception. But even with its over-the-top accoutrements of costumes, dancers and pyro, many from inside and outside the show’s sphere felt it simply wasn’t different enough, especially with the familiar image of Abdul at Cowell’s side.