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    Simon Cowell Is Back With a Bang—and a Boatload of Cash

    And here we thought Simon Cowell returning to television was prize enough. Not so!

    Just when you thought it couldn't get any more hyped (particularly not in the wake of the un-exploding Cowell Super Bowl commercial), Fox is upping the stakes on The X Factor's upcoming premiere season, announcing today that the winner of the reality-competition will not only go on to almost certain ridicule fame, but will take home the biggest prize in the history of reality TV.

    So what is it?

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    A record deal. But don't roll your eyes just yet—this isn't just any old record deal. This is a record deal worth a staggering $5 million!

    Now that's a lot of money, dawg.

    Enough, in fact, for the network to say today that it believes it to be the biggest guaranteed prize in TV history. It's certainly more than the typical $1 million offered by American Idol. (And, lest there be any doubt, the record deal up for grabs is with SyCo, Cowell's label venture with Sony Music.)

    Also setting the new show apart from the rest of the pack (cough, Idol, cough) is that talents as young as 12 can apply—and just as importantly for the late-bloomers out there, there is no upper age limit for contestants.

    "I like the idea that a 12-year-old on this show can compete with an older singer and a singing group," Cowell said. "I've never believed there should be a cut-off age for talent, and we are going to put our money where our mouths are with the $5 million recording contract. I'm doing this show in America because I genuinely believe we can find a superstar."

    That is, if there are any left that haven't already thrown their lot in with Idol or America's Got Talent.

    Singers ready to be discovered—and, let's not forget who we're dealing with here, humiliated—can take note now. Auditions for the show kick off in Los Angeles on March 27.

    As for the rest of the country, the remainder of the audition cities, though not dates, have also been released: Cowell & Co. (whoever they may be) will also be making their way to Chicago, Dallas, Miami, New York/New Jersey and Seattle. (In case you want to participate, you can register at the Fox.com site or via Facebook.)

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