After some last-minute negotiations, the reality judges with the love-hate relationship we love to love arrived (kissy faces in full effect) at the inaugural X Factor auditions in Los Angeles yesterday.
They were joined by L.A. Reid and Cheryl Cole. But then, you knew that. What you didn't know is the shaky start the show—courtesy of an egged-on audience—got off to.
Where's Ryan Seacrest when you need him?
But before the judges headed inside to do what they do best, they discussed what makes this show different from rest of the ever-multiplying reality competition shows out there.
"You won't see a boxing ring. Our chairs stay in one place," Cowell—who, like the rest of America, has clearly seen an episode or two of The Voice—told E! News. "We cover everything on this show, you're going to see the good, the bad and the ugly. Hopefully mostly good."
As for the much-anticipated reunion of Saula, Cowell told us what finally cinched the deal.
"Common sense and a bit of a nudge, really…I admired her, actually, because a lot of people would've just instantly said, 'You know what, I'll just take it,'" he said of the prolonged contract negotiations. "But Paula's Paula, she stuck to her guns, and I admire her for that. You know, she's ballsy. At one point, I called her and I said, 'You really are pushing your luck here.'"
As for the new dynamic in their relationship—unlike on American Idol, Cowell is now Abdul's boss—he clearly isn't taking that title too seriously.
"I could never be her boss. It's more like the other way around. I think she's going to establish that."
Just like old times, then. Well, almost. Because if it were truly old times, then Cowell would be the most feared and acid-tongued judge on the panel. And judging by yesterday's auditions, that doesn't seem to be the case.
Instead, that honor seems to go to L.A. Reid, who told E! News prior to taking his chair that, "I like to think I have a very different opinion about music, about artists and about talent and I expect there to be some amount of disagreement, but I think it'll be great."
Great? Well, depends on who you ask. We're guessing contestants wouldn't agree.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Reid laid into the second auditioner of the day, a 52-year-old divorcée. After some back and forth about her song—during which the audience began booing and shouting "next," he delivered the following withering critique:
"When was the last time you performed? Eighteen years ago? Whatever made you stop then, you should've stuck with that decision."
Contrast it to Cowell's comparatively gentle review: "It's very brave, and I don't mean this disrespectfully, but you're someone who should be singing at home."
Is this a kinder, gentler Cowell? Doubtful. But maybe he was just feeling bad about having egged the audience on in the first place.
"The idea is we're trying to find a superstar…And you're our fifth judge," he told the audience, per the Reporter, prior to the first wannabe taking the stage.
"Basically you're here to tell us who you like. You can be as badly behaved as you want, actually. The whole reason for doing this is I trust you guys for being able to judge this process. There's $5 million at stake."
After the divorcee performed, however, producers stepped in and told the harsh audience—who not only booed and jeered, but counted down the performance—to cease booing, as the show is not out to be the nastiest series on TV.
Which may go someway to explaining the addition of Cheryl Cole to the panel.
"I've been in their shoes and I've had those moments of absolute scrutiny, where people are watching every move you make, so I like to think I could help them as opposed to judge them," she told E! News.
She might have her work cut out for her.