Why pop's hitman Simon Cowell had to terminate his star protégé Cheryl Cole

In British TV Simon Cowell's word is law. But in the US a higher power exists – as Cheryl Cole has just found out

If Cheryl Cole's towering bouffant was a little deflated yesterday when her reign as a judge on the US version of The X Factor came to a brutal conclusion after two short weeks, she can take consolation in the fate of another talent show judge.

Kelly Brook, the television presenter, lasted just six days when Simon Cowell chose her as the new star face of Britain's Got Talent, his other entertainment juggernaut.

These defenestrations demonstrate that when the ruthless music mogul decides the show must go on, but without one of his star protégés, the end is usually swift.

On this occasion, however, Cowell, even with his £200m wealth, had to bow to a higher power – Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corporation owns the Fox network. Executives concluded that Cole's performance in early auditions were not strong enough to deliver the ratings required for such a high-profile show.

It's an embarrassment for Cowell who pushed Cole's claim to be the face of the new show, brushing aside concerns over the Geordie star's accent and her limited US profile.

Fox, which is charging US advertisers $400,000 for a 30-second spot on The X Factor on the understanding that it will replicate the huge success of American Idol, gave Cowell his wish.

When Cole arrived in Los Angeles, however, she discovered she was a makeweight on the all-star line-up, which included Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger, record producer Antonio "L A" Reid and singer-choreographer Paula Abdul.

The chemistry between Cowell and Abdul, whose partnership helped make American Idol a Fox hit, resumed during the early auditions. Cowell reportedly favoured Abdul over Cole at a photo-shoot, awarded her the plum seat next to his on the panel and began interrupting Cole on camera.

Cowell tried to sell Cole to a sceptical US media as a "style icon". But that claim was undermined when her "big hair" was mocked at a photo-shoot. "It was the equivalent of her using five gallons of hairspray and then standing in the middle of a hurricane," Cowell said.

Cole, used to admiring coverage from British tabloids and glossy magazines, was now the "Wookie rookie", following comparisons to the Star Wars character Chewbacca. Cowell ordered new LA stylists for Cole, who was said to be feeling "homesick".

Fox executives and Cowell reviewed the tapes of the auditions. Cole's accent would be an issue until she was established in the show but, more seriously, the "sparky" chemistry that Cowell promised she would generate as a judge wasn't there. Cole was deemed the "weakest link".

The game was almost up when Fox released a 90-second promo film for the show, which relegated Cole, captioned as a "platinum-selling artist", to a non-speaking role. Cowell, who hoped he could build a "dream team" out of Abdul and Cole, accepted defeat.

"X Factor is about establishing Fox as the No 1 US network among 18- to 49-year-olds," said a broadcasting source. "Pepsi has signed a $60m deal and they are taking the show to sponsors. They can't take risks, they have to give American viewers the personalities they expect to see. It's the Simon and Paula show."

Dannii Minogue, who headed towards the UK X Factor exit after the producers declined to work around her travel commitments, offered her sympathies to Cole, tweeting: "Judging roles should come with a life jacket, drop down oxygen and a life raft."

Usually it's Cowell who holds all the cards. Piers Morgan, who owes his US television career to Cowell's patronage, understands the deal. "It's his train set – I'm just the driver," admitted the former newspaper editor, who was elevated to a judging seat on America's Got Talent. "Simon could get rid of us anytime he wants."

Cole, seamlessly replaced as a judge by co-host Scherzinger, has already given up her slot on the UK X Factor. She had also hoped to use the show to launch an assault on the US charts. She could now be a BBC target to star in The Voice, a new singing show which the Corporation is expected to launch.

Her departure may not help Steve Jones, the Welsh former Channel 4 presenter who was a surprise choice to co-host the US X Factor. Jones got the role after demonstrating his rapport with Cole during auditions.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Lead Systems Developer / Software Developer

COMPETITIVE + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Lead Systems Developer / Sof...

Recruitment Genius: Social Media & Engagement Manager - French or German Speaker

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: The world's leading financial services careers...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive - 6 Months Contract

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Digital Marketing Executive...

Guru Careers: Account Manager / Senior Account Manager

40-45K DOE + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Manager / Senior Account Manag...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future