Simon Cowell Has ‘No Idea’ If Four-Judge ‘American Idol’ Panel Will Work

He says this year's contestants have more personality and calls new judge Kara DioGuardi 'well-qualified.'

Simon Cowell thought he had his hands full with fellow “American Idol” judge [artist id="1397"]Paula Abdul[/artist]. But with the addition of another judge this year, singer/songwriter Kara DioGuardi, Cowell said Wednesday (December 17) that he’s not sure if four is the magic number.

“I have no idea if this will work or not,” Cowell admitted during a conference call, saying he’ll only know when he watches the first few rounds of auditions when they begin airing January 13. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t work. [That's the] delicious thrill of doing reality television.”

Cowell praised Grammy-nominated DioGuardi’s experience writing hit songs for everyone from the [artist id="2088128"]Jonas Brothers[/artist] to [artist id="1231768"]Kelly Clarkson[/artist] and [artist id="501686"]Britney Spears[/artist], calling her “well-qualified” and saying her strong opinions on music and talkative nature should add to the show.

But asked about claims made by show co-producer Ken Warwick earlier in the week that the two female judges were ganging up on the testy Brit and making him “miserable,” Cowell said, “What guy would like that? Come on. You’ve got two girls ganging up on you. One is hard enough; two is unbearable. But they’ve both got personalities, they’re both very forceful, and you’ve got to stand [your ground]. At least I’ve got Randy by my side. It’s not that bad.” He also said later that he’d never met or heard of DioGuardi before he was informed that she was joining the cast.

Perhaps the saving grace, he said, is that he has been granted the power to break a tie, something he said he loved and the other judges hated. There have been a few disagreements over contestants, “particularly from the girls when they can’t get their way,” he said, and specifically one regarding a female contestant in a bikini who appeared in early “Idol” promos, who, he laughed, got an immediate yes from the men and an equally quick no from Paula and Kara, with Cowell gladly breaking the tie.

As he says nearly every year, Cowell claimed this year’s bunch is better than groups in the past, specifically the male contestants, who he said stood out more than the female singers during the recently completed Hollywood rounds. “We’ve got an interesting bunch,” he said, noting that he felt the show got stuck in a “battle of the blondes” last year. “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, and they’re different from people we’ve had before.”

Though the focus is obviously on singing ability, Cowell said part of the solution to making sure the audience and judges don’t get bored with the talent after the audition weeks was to be as “broad and open-minded” as possible during the early rounds to avoid getting a “Stepford Wives”-like top 12. And for Cowell, “It’s important that we have all types of singers, all types of people. … Personality is as important as talent on a show like this,” he added, pointing to such vibrant past “Idol” winners as Fantasia as an example of great singers who also brought a high-energy vibe to the show.

Questions kept coming about whether Cowell wanted to revise his past comments about how adding another judge could ruin the interplay between himself, Paula and Randy. “I had been very, very happy with this panel for years, because we did have a unique chemistry,” he said. “I genuinely don’t know until I watch the show … whether this is a good thing or bad thing.”

And, when the inevitable question came up about whether Cowell will, as hinted in the past, bow out as an onscreen judge after the 2010 season, he said that decision would come next year but that he’s confident the show would still be a ratings juggernaut even if his seat were recast. “It’s been the best eight years of my life, it’s been fantastic,” he said. “It can still continue without me. I’ve always believed that. … I think this show could continue for another 10, 20 years.”

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