Certain people in World Culture capture the zeitgeist in such a way that they can simply be known by their first names. There's Martha (Martha Stewart), Oprah (Oprah Winfrey), Brad (Brad Pitt)... and most recently (and much quicker it seems) is Simon.

That would be Simon Cowell.

Executive Producer of the immensely popular American Idol, Simon was recently on hand to discuss his newest creation America's Got Talent. With Regis Philbin hosting and people like David Hasselhoff and Brandy doing the judging, each week America is treated to all different kinds of "performers" vying for a $1 million cash prize. As usual during the conference call, Simon kept his answers terse, insightful, and unpredictable.

Is David Hasselhoff coming back as a judge and how do you feel about the comments he made that you "conned" him into doing the show?

Simon Cowell: (Laughs) To answer your first question he is coming back. Regarding the second comment, I think it was David's vague attempt at humor, because he called me afterwards and he went, "Oh, I was trying to be ironic and sarcastic." I said, "It didn't quite come over that way, David." He called me then he sent he me an email. He was genuinely apologetic about it. And, I think he was trying to be funny. Not really succeeding.

Do you prefer to be in front of the cameras like with American Idol? Or, behind them like on your other shows?

Simon Cowell: It's both really to be honest with you. I get as much pleasure from Idol as being there from the beginning when the show was created, as I do with being on it. That's the same thing with America's Got Talent, for example. You feel very proud of these shows. I probably enjoy being behind the scenes more than being on camera, if I'm being honest.

Why is that?

Simon Cowell: I never went into this business to be on TV, and it wasn't part of my mission statement. It happened by accident. From running a record label for years, I've always been behind the scenes and that's probably where I'm more comfortable.

After performing on America's Got Talent, is this it for the jugglers?

Simon Cowell: Well, it depends how good they are. We always say to anyone who comes on this show, it's a showcase for you to be in front of 12 to 15 million people every week. In terms of the non-singers, it was to try and find someone who would be good enough to play in Vegas. The most important thing about this show is that we set up a precedent to say there will be no rules or criteria attached. When you open up the doors you've got to allow literally everyone on. The idea was, would a talent competition that features people apart from singers be popular? I think it proved in the first season that the audience really liked that.

It's the same with Idol and it's the same with Got Talent. You take your chances when you enter a show like this. Some of you are going to have careers on the back of it and a lot of you aren't, but you're still going to get noticed in front of millions of people.

Did you have anyone from America's Got Talent who was a particular favorite of yours?

Simon Cowell: I liked Johnny Badfingers, actually. I don't think I'd want to sign him, but he did amuse me. And I also liked that Russian guy, Leonid. I thought he was brilliant.

Which TV shows are on your TiVo?

Simon Cowell: Gosh, Columbo. Yeah, I like that. And I quite like the Entourage as well. That'd be it. And I also tried to watch the movie of the Jetsons.

Are we going to be seeing anything different in the next season of America's Got Talent?

Simon Cowell: Yeah, the biggest process change will be that there will have to be a bootcamp in the middle of it. I think when you are putting non-singers into the final stages, you've got to make sure that they've got at least 5-6 different parts to their act. That's the first big change we decided on, when the 200 or so people from the auditions go through to the next stage, instead of going straight to a semifinal, like they did last time, they're going to have to go into a two week bootcamp this time. Just to see how good they potentially are. It's going to be better for them and better for the show, I think.

America's Got Talent airs on NBC and is currently casting for the Second Season.

Evan Jacobs at Movieweb
Evan Jacobs