Nicole Scherzinger, Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, Antonio 'L.A.' Reid

Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage

They're baaack.

If you haven't heard, Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul are returning to reality competition TV with next week's premiere of The X Factor and guess what we saw last night? The first episode!

So how does it compare to American Idol? Is Abdul giving us the crazies? Is Cowell more sharp-tongued than ever? We've got the scoop. Warning, some slight spoilers lay ahead...

Cowell was surprisingly pleasant, only losing his cool—and justifiably so—with a handful of kooky contestants who clearly didn't belong in the competition.

The wackadoodle antics that we loved from Abdul's work on Idol are MIA. The "Straight Up" singer was on her best behavior, offering kind and constructive criticism. She did shed some tears, as did fellow judge Nicole Scherzinger, during a few of the more powerful auditions.

Standout hopefuls include Stacy Francis, a 42-year-old mother of two, who gave an emotional rendition of "Natural Woman," leaving even Cowell impressed. "That was one of the best auditions I've ever heard," he said.

Another was Melanie Amaro, 18, who received a standing ovation from the judges and the audience after belting out Beyoncé's Dreamgirls ballad, "Listen."

As for any bickering, it looks like it's going to be Cowell vs. record label honcho LA Reid. The two frequently butted heads over who should be sent to the next round.

Much like Idol, the X Factor showcases contestants with heart-breaking backstories that include drug-addiction, poverty and domestic abuse. The Ryan Seacrest of the show, British hottie Steve Jones, is offstage to chat with and comfort contestants before and after their auditions.

Here's hoping the charming Mr. Jones gets more airtime in the future.

And get this—Cheryl Cole is in the episode. Remember her? She's the judge who was given the boot shortly after filming began. While we see the U.K. pop singer judging the Los Angeles round of auditions, she simply disappears when Scherzinger steps in and replaces her in Seattle.

Now we want to hear from you. Are you stoked to see the X Factor? Sound off below.

VIDEO: Check out what the judges have to say about the new season

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