Simon Cowell, aka The Black Helmet, did not become unfeasibly rich without figuring out somewhere along the way that being able to manage the media – some might use terms such as “manipulate” and “deceive” – was useful to the continuing promotion of Himself Personally Now. So it should have surprised no-one that he was indulging in that very game this past week.
Cowell’s flagship The X Factor series, which he exported to the USA amidst great fanfare four years ago, has been slipping in the ratings of late. The BBC is bringing on Saturday evening offerings that have reinvented what used to be called “family viewing” – pace Strictly – and not even Brucie’s appallingly bad jokes deter the punters. No matter, The Black Helmet has the answer.
And that answer is that he is returning to the show, like some kind of Messiah: yesterday online news sources were full of the news, not least ITV, seeing in Cowell better viewing figures and more advertising revenue as a result. “
While they were all dutifully churning over the press release, and speculating as to who might be on the judging panel of the newly refreshed show – Louis Walsh? Cheryl Curl? – nobody seemed to ask the obvious question: who will be looking after the shop Stateside? After all, if it’s such a success, Cowell wouldn’t want to leave, would he? Er, what success would that be, then?
The reason that The Black Helmet is returning to the UK version of The X Factor – apart from trying to re-establish the show at the top of the ratings – is that there aren’t going to be any more series of the US version. Fox have pulled the plug after – surprise, surprise – yet more declining ratings. So Cowell doesn’t have much of an alternative. But his PR somehow forgot to tell everyone.
Simon Cowell is not stupid: you don’t get to sit atop that pile of dosh merely by chance. And, along the way, he has learnt that the pressures on newspapers and websites to keep on churning out content means that they are susceptible to manipulation by the likes of him. Everyone else is at it – so he just joins in. And makes a success story out of routine failure.
Perhaps the last journalist to leave the building could turn out the lights.