A lot of people remember the good old Simon Cowell days. As an original judge on American Idol, which concluded in its final season earlier this year, Cowell was the country’s most-loved-and-hated public figure in the entertainment sphere, as his ruthless, cutting remarks towards singing contestants were legendary for their no-holds-barred quality.
That was not the Simon Cowell who judged on last night’s America’s Got Talent premiere.
The imported Brit-American who sat beside returning judges Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, and Mel B surprised the nation with his kinder, more encouraging comments made towards some, frankly, outlandish AGT contestants.
The first episode per season of AGT always draws in the strangest acts, completely because they have not been weeded out from the acts that make it yet by the judges. Instead of ripping down the odder performers or the acts that slipped up (sometimes more than once), Cowell pushed a good number of them to the next round as well as giving them kind words.
To the man who drove scissor blades up his nostrils, Cowell applauded with a standing ovation from the audience behind him. “In all my years that is probably the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen,” said Cowell, “but I loved it and I want to see where this will go.”
The performers Charlie and Rose, in the days of American Idol, likely would have been subjected to old-fashioned Cowell cruelty, but last night, that was not the case. Charlie, though the song “Viva Las Vegas” was essential to his casino-esque act, stumbled through the lyrics repeatedly. Rose, though there was absolutely no call to do so, kept removing her clothes.
And instead of calling the two out on the ludicrousness of the performance, Cowell ushered the two on to the next round.
There was a strong demographic presence that to most people would automatically win a ‘yes’ vote last night as well, but it was a group that old Cowell would have been completely immune to–and that group was small children and puppies.
Without a shred of brutality in his words, however, Cowell urged a thirteen year-old opera singer onward, telling her she was “sweet” and “humble.” To a six year-old singer, who might not have been protected from Cowell’s harsh words back in the day, Cowell joked with him. He asked “Are you married?” while gesturing to the boy’s mother, and told them that he thinks “America is going to fall in love with [him].”
And a dancing dog, an act that AGT has definitely seen before, won Cowell over as he exclaimed, “I actually think the dog likes dancing!”
Overall, the man who sat at the AGT judge’s table last night was not the harsh, unforgiving man who America knew five-to-ten years ago. Simon Cowell of old once told a girl she looked like a bush baby and then promptly rejected her; the new praised a contestant who taped his face over and mimed a song. The old once tore an American Idol competitor down for sounding too much like the Spice Girls while last night, Cowell ushered in singer after singer after singer.
Of course, that may not be accidental. Cowell told reporters two months ago that he had every intention to add as many vocalists to the AGT performance pool as possible, Deadline reports.
Whatever kind of Cowell Americans now have to contend with, his presence definitely helped AGT secure a solid 2.6/10 household rating last night. Though the score mirrors what AGT generally averaged last year, AGT is currently in a market murky with NBA and NHL playoffs, night baseball, and new summer shows.
And this new breed of Cowell, the man who drew millions to watch American Idol in the 2000’s before his departure, might be enough to launch the eleventh season of AGT to the strong ratings it needs to be in to survive the Summer Olympics and beyond.