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Simon Cowell: Miserable, Beaten Up By Girls, Optimistic About <i>Idol</i>‘s Future In preparation for next week's big fancy premiere date, Simon Cowell got on the horn with the media (including us -- we're totally the media) recently to share all the AI secrets he hides in his infamous pecs. I have to say, he was surprisingly affable and gracious, but then again that's probably just because nobody was singing at him. He was frank about how risky this season's changes could be, and his praise for new judge Kara DioGuardi wasn't exactly overwhelming, but it's Simon, and he's just not a gusher of praise in general. Personally, I have a good feeling about the new judge. Not that I have anything to base that on other than the brief call I had with her back in August, but all I can say is this show needs a coherent female who also has a good ear, and she is undeniably that. Anyway, read on for Simon's thoughts on Kara, Paula's trash talk, what sucked about last season and all manner of other things Idol below.

Idol has had a fourth judge before; Angie Martinez didn't quite work out. What's going to make it work this time?

Simon Cowell: Well look, first of all, I have no idea whether this is going to work or not. I haven't seen the show back yet. It's only when I watch the show back whether we actually know if this has been a good idea or a bad idea.

The thing I do support is at least trying new things. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't work. That's the delicious thrill of making reality television -- you genuinely don't know.

What's your take on the other changes, like bringing back the wild card and focusing less on the train wreck auditions?

SC: I think the wild card is a good idea. I wasn't crazy about the process we went through the last couple of years where we were given a small group of contestants who you actually got bored with once you hit about show five of the live shows. This way this is a bit more jeopardy and hopefully a bit more fun in the middle stages.

How was the crop this year versus last year?

SC: I think, look: My feeling, having done the Hollywood round, was we have an interesting bunch. Where I think we got a little bit stuck last year, it was kind of like battle of the blondes and they all looked the same. I couldn't differentiate one from the other. This year there seems to be more personality. They're definitely standing up for themselves more, which I like. They're different from the people we've had before. I'm actually happy and I'm optimistic about this year. I could be wrong.

What did you do this year to make sure that you weren't going to get bored with these people?

SC: Well, we tried to be as broad and as open-minded as possible so that we don't end up with 12 people from the Stepford Wives. I think it's important that we have all types of singers, all types of people because I have to say, I think personality is as important as talent on a show like this. I think it's important for the show. What you hope you end up with is somebody like Fantasia, who's not only extremely talented, she's an incredible person, has a great vibe and makes the show interesting. We tried, where we can with what we had, just to get a more interesting group of people.

Which of Kara's qualities as a judge struck you immediately?

SC: Well, she has experience. She's written hit songs. She has an opinion, which is very, very important. She talks a lot. I think she's probably well qualified.

[Executive Producer] Ken Warwick said recently that the two female judges were ganging up on you and that you were miserable about it, but he said it was good for the show. What you would say to that?

SC: Well, what guy would like that? Come on. You know? You have two girls ganging up on you. One is hard enough; two is unbearable. They've both got personalities, they're both very forceful and you have a... At least I've got Randy by my side, so it's not that bad.

Will Idol Gives Back happen this season?

SC: Well, there won't be an Idol Gives Back this year. From my perspective, the reason we haven't done it is this: First of all, with what's happening in the world and America having problems along with the rest of the world, I don't think it feels right to be turning to people who have problems with mortgages, etc, this year, to start donating money to charities when they have enough problems at home. I mean, we will be doing this again, but as I said, it just didn't feel appropriate this year.

Paula has made some pretty harsh criticisms of you, claiming that you are often whispering in her ear and trying to trip her up on live TV right before she is about to speak or give comments. How do you react to that?

SC: Well, guilty. I've done it from day one. I mean, that's part of the relationship I've had with Paula. I've looked upon it, by the way, in a fun way. I mean, it was never done with any maliciousness. She's never really had an issue with me about it. If I've thought I've gone too far, I've apologized. You know, we've been really, I think, good friends through the process. I thought she took most of this with a sense of humor. If she'd really said to me, "I don't want you ever to do it again," I wouldn't do it.

I don't think her remarks were as barbed as they may have appeared. That's always been our relationship. We've always had fun with each other. By the way, it's not just Paula -- I do it to all the judges I work with on all the shows all over the world.

We had heard that you were going to make the call in the event of a tie. Have you been called to do that a lot, and what's been the reaction from the other judges?

SC: I love it. They hate it.

What do you think about the changes to the upcoming season? And Paula. Can we talk about Paula?

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