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Simon Cowell & Paula Abdul Reunite in ‘X Factor’ Preview to Diss Contestants, ‘Idol’

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

Do not attempt to adjust your TV dial. Your television set has not magically transformed into a time machine and transported you back to 2009, when Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul's bad cop/kooky cop showmance still dominated "American Idol." If watching Fox on Tuesday night confused you, as you witnessed Simon and Paula sitting together on a judging panel again, it's because Simon's new show "The X Factor USA" aired its first breathlessly awaited premiere that evening. And if this promo is anything to go by, Simon plans to return Fox to the illustrious bastion of dream-crushing and vile-spewing it once was, before kinder, gentler Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez joined Randy Jackson over at "Idol" and started declaring every single singer "beautiful" and "in it to win it."

The preview was only two minutes and 31 seconds, but that was enough to know that Simon is back to doing what he does best: telling wannabe pop stars that they are "absolute rubbish" and, of course, bickering like a Virginia Woolf-style old married couple with Paula. During the preview, Paula was even shown angrily splashing Simon with a drink--interesting Pepsi product placement, there--and actually yelling at an audience member in a separate heated incident. So apparently Paula isn't quite the softie she used to be in her "Idol" days, either.

However, some of you may have also attempted to adjust your dials when the preview started off with Simon acting like a softie, flaunting a never-seen sweet side that would have seemed right at home alongside cuddly, useless "Idol" judges Steven and J.Lo: telling an awkward pigtailed moppet singing the Annie showtune "Tomorrow" that he loved her spirit, giving a pitchy frat boy warbling "Danny Boy" a standing ovation, even replacing his signature too-tight T-shirt with (gasp!) a PINK fuzzy sweater. And he was uttering warm 'n' fuzzy sentiments about the contestants too, like "It's not about me anymore, it's about them." Whaaaa?

But naturally, this was all just a bad dream (something Simon was probably thinking about his entire run on "Idol" Season 9), and once he woke up in his tastefully appointed bachelor-pad penthouse that "Idol" bought, he put his T-shirt back on and his old evil persona reemerged. Said Simon in a statement on the show's official Twitter page: "I literally imagined my worst nightmare, and it was me loving this song, Paula and I holding hands, and everything is just awful! We wanted to make [a preview promo] which showed what the show could have been, my nightmare, basically...then transitioning into what we really are."

Hmmm, "what the show could have been," huh? Did he mean...another "American Idol"? Oh snap!

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Anyway, unless you count that icky moment when Paula roasted Simon on the Season 9 "Idol" finale, she and Simon had not legitimately shared the small screen since "Idol" Season 8--a seeming lifetime ago in reality-years, when Simon was still crushing dreams on primetime TV every week, Adam Lambert was still jamming with KISS, and Kara DioGuardi was still considered "the new girl" and exposing herself in a bikini. Kara was nowhere to be seen on Simon's new show, of course--and sadly, neither was recently ousted "X Factor" judge Cheryl Cole. (It almost seemed like Cheryl's 11th-hour replacement, Nicole Scherzinger, had been CGI'd into all the "X Factor's" preview vignettes; and speaking of Nicole, from the looks of her crying jags during this preview, it seemed like she was campaigning to fill Paula's former "nice judge" role. I guess someone has to do it.) But man, there was plenty of Simon/Paula love/hate goodness (mostly hate, actually) to behold here.

Oh, how I have missed those two. I am curious to see more of fourth judge Antonio "L.A." Reid in action--his vicious critique of one audition, "I wanted to slit my wrists," indicated he has the potential to out-mean even big meanie Simon--but it's the Simon/Paula dynamic that I believe will make "X" hit the spot.

Are you looking forward to seeing "The X Factor USA" and more Simon/Paula dramedy when the show premieres September 21?

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