In news that just became official but has been rumored for so long that it already feels like the first season has come and gone, Paula Abdul is the fourth and final judge on the U.S. edition of The X Factor, which will reunite her with Simon Cowell. The deal was finalized just in time, allowing Paula to participate in the first audition taped for the fall season, which was held Sunday in Los Angeles.
One element that separates The X Factor from that other obscure show Simon and Paula used to appear on is that auditions at this phase take place before a live audience, which is encouraged to react. By all accounts, Paula was greeted warmly on Sunday. There are some questions, though, about whether America is as in love with her as Cowell clearly believes. There's no evidence American Idol has suffered in her absence, neither in the ratings or particularly as a production. And the competition show she headlined this past winter, Live to Dance, was one of the great disasters of the now-concluding 2010-11 television season.
The beginning of the public auditions also meant the official introduction of the hosts of The X Factor: Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger, and British personality Steve Jones. Scherzinger's name has been discussed in connection with the show for months (she was one of the rumored potential judges at one point), but Jones is not a known quantity to American audiences. And the decision to bring him aboard means that three of the six show regulars (Jones, Cowell, and judge Cheryl Cole) are British. I suppose Cowell has done enough for Fox that he's earned the right to do things his way, but this does not seem like a solid idea.