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The irritating Simon Cowell: His time is so over

Shocking news from Britain, people: "Simon Cowell's biography is the book most often left behind in hotel rooms, according to a survey."

Exactly why anyone would take Simon Cowell's life to a hotel room is beyond me. But never mind, they're funny about these things over there. Thinking about what goes on in English hotel rooms could keep you awake in a cold sweat of disquiet, no matter what room you are in and no matter book you have taken there. But I digress.

I put it to you that there's good news in this shocking revelation. The public here, there and everywhere may finally be tiring of the most irritating man in the entire entertainment universe. The world has been menaced by Simon Cowell for too long.

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Hardly anyone on this side of the Atlantic had heard of Cowell when American Idol launched him on an unsuspecting public in 2002. He was English and rude. That's the gist of his fame over here. Mind you, emerging from the tacky end of the English pop-music racket, he carved out a vast empire based on the popularity of performance-based reality TV shows. Since Idol took off on the United States, Cowell has been involved in British and international versions of Britain's Got Talent and The X-Factor. The new U.S. version of The X-Factor arrives on Fox next year, which means he's out of the Idol circus.

Now, did anyone actually care when, recently, Fox announced the two new Idol judges? The weird-looking bag of bones and hair Steven Tyler and former vroom-vroom diva Jennifer Lopez were trotted out. The media covered it and, I suspect, nobody cared much. It's so over, isn't it?

As for the upcoming X-Factor, well, it's yet another talent-show thing. According to various reports, joining Cowell as judges will be Cheryl Cole and Nicole Scherzinger. Cole is famous in Britain for being part of the laughable all-girl singing act Girls Aloud and for being married for a time to the equally laughable soccer player Ashley Cole. Scherzinger is what might be called "best known" for being part of the thoroughly laughable all-girl singing group Pussycat Dolls.

It will be more of the same - unknowns doing covers of songs and the judges and audience gawking, looking for some spark of originality or about-to-blossom talent. But, let's face it, there is a limited number of people who can fulfill the X-Factor mandate. And we're all a bit tired of the format.

Yes, it's true that American Idol is special in that it's what TV execs call "a big-tent" show - one that people of all ages and backgrounds will watch. But it's also true that the public has limited time for TV viewing and it's unlikely that people will indulge in watching multiple shows that are similar in style and format. Every now and then, somebody wants to watch a sitcom or a cop show in which some no-goodnik gets what he deserves.

As I write this, the British version of The X-Factor is rolling along. Cowell, never one to miss an opportunity to pronounce on something, told a tabooed paper that he's cracking down on the sob-story contestant. "What we're trying to avoid is 17-year-olds coming up with pathetic sob stories and singing songs that are too old for them in the hope that they're going to be popular. I don't want this to be a popularity contest. I think it is important that it remains a talent competition."

Now that's what I call funny. Someone doth protest too much. Months before the U.S. X-Factor plays out, I put it to you that the Simon Cowell-ization of television has peaked and will decline. Time he checked out anyway.

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About the Author
Television critic

John Doyle is The Globe and Mail's television critic. His column appears in the Review section Monday to Thursday and on Saturday. He has been the paper's critic since 2000. More

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