LOS ANGELES — Women rule when it comes to the panel of judges for this year's edition of "The X Factor."
Longtime judge and curmudgeon Simon Cowell will have to deal with three female judges in Kelly Rowland, Paulina Rubio and Demi Lovato.
"It's been fun," Cowell says. "It's exactly what I thought it would be. We said at the time, it's a girls' world at the moment in the music business. So many girls doing so well in the charts, we thought the panel should reflect it."
Unable to avoid adding a jab, Cowell smiles and adds: "But be careful what you wish for."
What he's really wishing for is a group of contestants — male and female — who will attract viewers to the reality music competition show. And, it's very important the judges find a talent that will go on to fame and fortune. As far as Cowell's concerned, none of the music competition shows can survive if they don't eventually launch a huge star.
"You're making a promise, essentially, to the contestants that you're going to try and turn them into real life artists or the show finishes. It's not a guarantee, but that is your commitment. Otherwise, it's just a game show," Cowell says.
The most important part for Cowell is what occurs after the final voting. He points to the success of One Direction, a band Cowell put together during the British version of "The X Factor," as an example of the success he is looking for with winning acts.
Changes in the judging panel — that take L.A. Reid and Britney Spears off the show — is one way Cowell is trying to make "The X Factor" the kind of competition he wants. He compares the panel last year to a dinner party where the invited guests don't turn out to be as interesting as expected.
Lovato is making her second appearance on the judging panel. She jokes that everyone told her you can't say "no" to Cowell, but she took it as a matter of national pride to go against the British judge.
"But also this. I guess, being 19 last year, I had a naive sense of confidence. I wasn't intimidated by him as people normally would be. And then this year, I'd done it all last year. So we have such a great friendship now. That's just how we are with each other," Lovato says. "And this year, I'm not the only one that does that. That's what makes this season stand out more. He's up against three women that will absolutely do the same thing.
"The way I like to put it is — last year the banter between me and Simon times three."
Joining Lovato in her verbal jousting with Cowell are Kelly Rowland, a singer and former member of Destiny's Child, and recording star Paulina Rubio, who is considered one of the most influential contemporary Latin artists working today.
Tweaks to the show come out of Cowell's competitive nature. "The Voice," NBC's singing competition series, has become the top-rated program in the genre. Cowell would love to see "The X-Factor" as the leader.
"I don't think any of us on this panel ever take part with the idea that you're going to lose. You have to be competitive. You have to make changes. You have to try and make the show better. You listen to the fans, the viewers, and I work hard. It makes it fun," Cowell says. "I'd love to be No. 1. If you've got a good panel and you've got good producers, which we have, the format is more fun.
"And then you get that one or two special contestants, and it can change everything because that's really what it's all about."
"The X Factor": 8 p.m. Wednesday on KMPH (Channel 26.1)
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.