Fall TV: Seacrest out? Steve Jones serves as host of Fox's 'X Factor'
"The X Factor" isn't the only British import coming to Fox this fall. Steve Jones will also make the overseas voyage to serve as host of the much-hyped singing competition, which has been dodging "American Idol" comparisons since mumblings first began of its U.S. adaptation. As far as hosting is concerned, the similarities between Jones and "Idol's" Ryan Seacrest are limited. Two words seem to be the limit, actually.
"I think I’ll borrow his outro — 'Seacrest out!' — when our live shows begin," Jones, who's rarely seen out of a suit, said wryly. "That’ll be my new catchphrase. At the end of every show, I’ll say, 'Seacrest out.' That's one less thing I'll have to worry about."
But it would seem a catchphrase might actually be the only worry. "The X Factor" is poised to be the next blockbuster talent competition — at least, that's what is to be surmised from the epic two-hour, two-night premiere it's making Sept. 21 and 22. But it's exactly that prospect that makes Jones nervous about whether expectations will end up aligning with reality.
"I hope it’s going to be a gigantic hit," he said recently at a West Hollywood hotel where he was promoting the show. "That’s what we all want. That’s what anybody who works on any show wants. But it's TV, and nothing is ever certain, even when it may seem so. The one thing we have that nobody else has — our ace in the hole — is Simon Cowell. We’ve got the biggest TV star in the world on our show. So that bodes well ... let's hope."
A former model, Jones is a familiar face to U.K. audiences, having appeared on shows including the children's variety program "T4," the "Guinness World Records Smashed!" special as well as upcoming series “Wedding Crashers," “Drop Zone” and “101 Ways to Leave a Gameshow.” He's hoping face recognition in America comes with the new series. But he's not exactly looking to reign over the hosting world in the same way Seacrest did in the aftermath of "American Idol's" launch in 2002.
"I definitely want to do more stuff over here," he said. "But a little bit at a time. My main concern at the moment is "X Factor." If I do come back next year, then I’ll think about other projects .... But I do want to keep my fingers and knees deep in British pies."
Perhaps that would have been an easier feat with two hosts? The 34-year-old Welsh presenter was originally set to co-host the series along with singer Nicole Scherzinger before she was promoted to judge following the dismissal of Cheryl Cole.
"To be honest, if they wanted me to host it with a donkey, I would have done it," he said. "I don’t care. It doesn’t matter if I'm next to somebody or not. Obviously, I like Nicole. We bonded very quickly. But it’s cool being the solo host. I think myself and Nicole would have gotten there eventually. It was a little busy backstage at first with two hosts — there was a lot going on. I think the format is suited to a singular host."
At least the odds he'll suffer the same fate as ousted "Idol" host Brian Dunkleman are minimized as the lone host. And he's already past the first hurdle: getting past Cowell's vanity.
"He's very charming," Cowell said. "The fact that I hired someone who is better looking than me is really annoying. But he gels with us."
But one can only gel with Simon for so long. Cowell bickered with Seacrest on "Idol" just as much as he did with Paula Abdul. Jones isn't necessarily looking to have the same rapport with Cowell, but he's prepared to stoop to that level.
"I’m not going to be snippy with him for the sake of it," Jones said. "But I promise you if he steps out of line, I will pounce on him like a rabid dog. I'm 200 pounds; I can take him."
For more on "The X Factor," check out the Fall TV Preview section in Sunday's Calendar or click here.
— Yvonne Villarreal
Photo: Steve Jones serves as host of Fox's "The X Factor," featuring judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, L.A. Reid and Nicole Scherzinger, which is in search of the next superstar solo artist or breakout musical group. Credit: Ray Mickshaw / Fox.