After what he described as the “massive wake-up call” of falling ratings for The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent last year, Simon Cowell has spoken of his plans to revamp both shows – with one idea being to send the winner of BGT 2012 into space on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic rocket.
“We are trying to work out a way so that the winner of the show gets to go up in the spacecraft,” Cowell told The Sun. “I’m being serious. You could be the first singer or dog act, whatever, performing in space.
“If it had been a few years ago,” the mogul went on, “Susan Boyle could have been singing Unchained Melody in front of the whole planet. It can’t be compulsory for the winner, but it will happen.”
Having answered the prayers of those who will be delighted to see the winner of Britain’s Got Talent removed from the face of the earth, Cowell went further by promising to leave the planet himself, albeit not permanently. “I would go on the spaceship,” he said.
Cowell did reveal, however, that he has studied the relevant science and discovered that performing in space brings unique problems. “Of course we have to think about the details,” he mused. “I mean, if you’re a juggler then we’ll need to make heavier balls.”
Back on Earth, Cowell admitted that his own arrogance had contributed to his disappointing year in 2011.
“We all got a bit smug last year,” he said. “I certainly got a bit too cocky. We went into 2011 thinking ‘It’s all going to be easy’ and of course it wasn’t. It was a massive wake-up call – from BGT to Red or Black? [and] me making these massive predictions in America [about the US X Factor’s ratings]. You’re in the hands of the public and it’s very unpredictable. Last year was the year my ego was put in check.”
Cowell openly criticised last year’s Britain’s Got Talent judging panel, which featured David Hasselhoff and Michael McIntyre for the first – and last – time. “I don’t think the judges did a good enough job, to be honest,” he said. “There are always stars waiting to be discovered. Sometimes they need to be pointed in the right direction and I don’t think that happened enough during the show last year.
“It was frustrating – watching the auditions, not necessarily agreeing with all the decisions and then having to judge them in the finals,” said Cowell, who returns to judge the auditions in this year’s show, starting today in Manchester. “But I believe that I can find a star.”
This year’s panel sees Cowell and Amanda Holden joined by David Walliams – “I like David because he’s weird and he makes me laugh without trying to be funny” – and Alesha Dixon, who has been poached from Strictly Come Dancing. The BBC1 Saturday-night show outperformed The X Factor in the ratings last year, which Cowell said was a major reason for his decision to hire Dixon for BGT.
“With us and the BBC, I laugh about it, but there is unbelievable rivalry now. They want to be number one, I want to be number one. I knew the BBC were putting on The Voice. They’ve done this to have a pop at The X Factor and to have a go at the BGT ratings. The Voice must have cost them at least £30m, but I’ve got Alesha now. My decision to poach her was 70/30 on the fact she was on Strictly and the fact I liked her.”