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With 'X Factor's' Cheryl Cole flap, is Simon Cowell up to his old shenanigans?

Cherylcolewaves Most shows don't start pouring on the PR antics until just before premiere. But the Cheryl Cole flap proves that Fox's "The X Factor" isn't about to play by those stupid old rules.

"The X Factor" won't start until the fall, but TV reporters have already spent the past few weeks as producer Simon Cowell's personal yo-yos. British songbird Cole was supposed to join Cowell, Paula Abdul and veteran hit-maker L.A. Reid at the judges' table. Then, Cole was out, for reasons no one could quite articulate (among the options: her accent was hard to understand; she didn't have good chemistry with Abdul; she was too emotionally fragile). Now, she might be back! Maybe. A new round of reports this weekend indicated that she was applying for a U.S. visa in anticipation of a possible return. 

Oh, what will happen if this person most Americans have never heard of doesn't show up for the taping of a singing contest that isn't even on the air?

Perhaps it's cynical to say such things. But speaking of cynicism: Note that since the Cole affair started, neither Fox nor the producers have been willing to say anything on the record. Not even: "We wish Cheryl the best in her future endeavors."

More to the point, the British version of "X Factor" is notorious for stunts, hokum and contrived controversy. A member of the group G4, which found fame on the show, later dismissed the judges' on-air bickering as "pure pantomime" and called "X Factor's" endless publicity stunts "silly."

And yet, in Britain the show keeps getting bigger, with last year's cycle the most-watched yet. Clearly, Cowell knows how to stir the pot.

The question is whether his brand of media carpet-bombing will work this time. The U.S. TV market is a lot bigger and more chaotic than in the U.K. And there's a risk that Americans might be turned off by a show that looks like a big, over-orchestrated media con before it even premieres. (Already, "X Factor" is being beaten out by scripted series such as Fox's "Terra Nova" in want-to-see polls.)

But this is Simon Cowell we're talking about. So this is just the first shot in a war that's going to last a long, long time.

Trackers, what do you think of the Cole controversy?


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-- Scott Collins (twitter.com/scottcollinsLAT)

Photo: Cheryl Cole last month at the Cannes Film Festival. Credit: Francois Guillot / AFP / Getty Images.







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