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Simon Cowell Reveals He’s Negotiating With Paula Abdul, Cheryl Cole For ‘X Factor USA’

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

Well, it's going to be just like old times over at "The X Factor USA" when it premieres on Fox this September. According to an exclusive interview Simon Cowell just granted to Deadline.com's Nikke Finke, not only is "The X Factor U.K." judge Cheryl Cole almost a done deal for the U.S. judging panel, but even more excitingly, Simon's old "American Idol" buddy Paula Abdul will also likely be joining them!

Until now, only Island Def Jam music mogul Antonio "L.A." Reid had been confirmed as an "X Factor USA" judge, but Paula's name kept cropping up as a rumored possibility, especially after the massive failure and cancellation of her own CBS reality show, "Live To Dance," left her free to take the job. And it seems Simon has just been waiting for the day that she could say yes. Apparently, Paula is forever Simon's girl.

"I've always wanted Paula," Simon tells Finke. "Always been very vocal about that. I missed her the second she left ['Idol']. Always loved working with her even though she can be a pain. And I've been consistent about this. I don't know what it is about her, but I've always clicked with her. You just have to get that chemistry, and she's right. I've never found anyone better than her. I think there's a good chance it will be her. We've agreed that we would meet as many people as possible, and now we're reaching the deadline we've got to make the decision soon. But I think she's got a really good shot."

Although "Live To Dance," on which Paula was the lead judge calling the shots, was a flop, I have a feeling viewers will welcome her back in this sidekick role with open arms. After all, the sweet and kooky ex-cheerleader has always been the perfect foil for big mean villain Simon, and as popular as new "Idol" judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez are, many viewers are tiring of their shtick and missing the old "Idol" formula. But that is the one caveat here. With two-thirds of the classic "American Idol" panel reunited on "The X Factor," what will differentiate this new show from its logical Fox predecessor, and not just make it seem like a hokey sequel ("American Idol 2: Electric Boogaloo")?

Perhaps Cheryl Cole's inclusion is the answer to that question. Cheryl is already a household name in Britain--she first came to attention in the U.K. as a contestant on another TV talent show, "Popstars," which spawned her hugely selling group Girls Aloud. (Check them out, they were actually kind of awesome.) Her tabloid marriage to (and eventual tabloid divorce from) soccer star Ashley Cole made her a sort of Posh Spice 2 (Electric Boogaloo), but she found her niche on "The X Factor U.K." Any American who's watched the British version of the show online already knows that she makes for great TV, and no, her working-class Newcastle accent is not that hard to understand. (According to some reports, her accent was a stumbling block for producers, who feared her broad brogue would alienate xenophobic audiences over here.) Plus, she is simply gorgeous. The camera LOVES her, and in Britain she's currently enjoying a solo pop career masterminded by the seemingly unavoidable will.i.am.

Gee, I wonder if all this will make Paula jealous...

Anyway, according to Finke's interview with Simon, Cheryl is "pretty much a shoo-in for the show" and will be announced as a judge this week. Simon denies that there was ever any push-back from Fox regarding his adamant decision to bring Cheryl to America. (Other reasons given for this rumored push-back: her name sounding too much like Sheryl Crow's, her criminal record stemming from a 2003 assault charge, and the fact that she's basically an unknown in the States.) "No, absolute opposite," Simon says. "[The Fox network's] Mike Darnell and Peter Rice will tell you they wanted her all the time. I showed a tape to Mike Darnell two years ago of a clip I'd shot in England of Cheryl and he said there and then, 'I'd hire her now for 'Idol.' They absolutely fell in love with her. In a way, the deal, it was almost conditional on Cheryl having the gig. They were desperate for her."

Adds Simon: "This girl is special. She's just got a great ability to communicate. She's a great judge. She's smart. It's just a hunch. If people take to her like the British public did, I think she's going to do really well in America. And Fox was desperate to hire her."

So there you have it. While the ink has yet to dry on either of the ladies' Fox contracts, if Simon gets his way--and let's face it, Simon almost always gets his way--his old judging buddies will be flanking him on the "X Factor USA" panel this fall. While the chemistry between Simon and each of them is well-documented and proven, it'll be mighty interesting to see how Paula and Cheryl get along (remember all that gossip about Paula bristling when second female judge Kara DioGuardi was recruited for "Idol"?); if American viewers accept Cheryl; and how L.A. Reid will fit into this mix.

Judge chemistry is so important on these shows, so we shall soon see if "X" marks the spot.

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