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Simon Cowell's new baby

Tuesday, March 27, 2006

Los Angeles (Reuters): Simon Cowell, the brutally honest judge on Fox television's smash hit ''American Idol,'' said he will open auditions next month for a new TV talent contest he is bringing to rival network NBC.Cowell insists that Fox has nothing to fear from his latest venture, a summer 2006 offering to be called ''America's Got Talent,'' as he has no intention of putting his NBC series on the air in direct competition with ''Idol.'' ''That will never happen,'' Cowell yesterday told reporters in a conference call to unveil plans for his new show, which he is developing with ''Idol'' executive producer Ken Warwick and FreemantleMedia, one of the studios behind the Fox hit.

Unlike ''American Idol,'' a contest limited to amateur singers vying for their first professional record deal, Cowell said his talent competition is open to aspiring performers of all stripes singers, dancers, comics, magicians, trapeze artists, even animal acts.The winner, winnowed from thousands of contestants over the course of the show and voted on by viewers, will take home a grand prize of 1 million dollars. ''We felt the time was right to open up the boundaries, and say to all of America, regardless of your age, whether you're 2, whether you're 100, regardless of what you believe your talent is juggling, magic, singing this is the show you can enter,'' Cowell said. ''It's as simple as that.'' Open-call auditions for ''America's Got Talent'' will kick off April 6 in Los Angeles, with subsequent tryouts in New York, Chicago and Atlanta.

Group acts as well as solo performers are welcome to audition, and those making the initial cut will be brought to Los Angeles for subsequent rounds of the competition. As on ''American Idol,'' early episodes of the new show will highlight the best of the worst from the audition rounds, which Cowell promises will be ''very brutal.'' ''In a way, you get to appreciate how good the good ones are when you see them up against the bad ones,'' he said. A three-member panel of celebrity judges has yet to be named, but Cowell said he will not be among them. They will choose one of two semifinalists from each performance round, and the other semifinalist will be picked by the viewers.The series is slated to debut on NBC during the summer.''American Idol,'' which currently reigns as the nation's top-rated program with an average audience of 30 million viewers, will finish its latest run in May.

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