‘American Idol’: Would Simon Cowell Ever Come Back to Judge?

Many revived shows often don’t resemble what they looked like in their original run. While we’ve seen evidence of this in revived sitcoms and dramas, revived reality shows haven’t been done too often. American Idol is one of the few reality shows that was canceled and then revived only two years after going off the air on Fox.

Simon Cowell had already long distanced himself from his own former British creation. It was within this time-frame when he decided to focus on one of his own successful TV franchises.

It’s debatable whether he’d return to Idol again as a judge. Let’s take a minute to find out if he would, should the ABC Idol survive.

Cowell became loved for being hated on ‘American Idol’

Jump back to June of 2002 when American Idol debuted on Fox and you’ll find an America still reeling from the 9/11 terrorist attacks and not knowing what to make of a new singing contest on TV. Even more interesting is most Americans had no clue who Simon Cowell was unless they’d already lived in Britain.

It only took a year for Cowell to become the most reviled star on TV. He soon mastered the art of being brutally honest to contestants while still somehow offering valuable feedback.

As the show went along, sometimes he’d make the life of contestants tortuous without the audience or viewers always knowing it. We’ve heard stories in the past about contestants complaining about Cowell’s “mind games.”

He managed to make this a part of his personal brand to a point where we just accepted him as who he was (even if the audience still booed him).

After ‘Idol’ ended, he focused on his other media properties

There wasn’t a lot of emotion from Cowell when the Fox version of American Idol finally went off the air in 2016. He showed up for the finale, though had already left the show as a recurring judge in the eighth season (2010). According to Cowell himself, he didn’t like the age limit requirements on the show and thought it was ridiculous they’d exclude someone who was 30 just because the age limit was 29.

Many people might assume he had the power to change those rules, yet he really didn’t. Simon Fuller was the one who created American Idol out of Cowell’s British counterpart Pop Idol. Also, Cowell never executive-produced the American version other than being head of the music company that signed the winning contestant.

Overall, Cowell was just a willing participant in American Idol, something he clearly outgrew as his own TV productions were brought to America. We soon saw him on the U.S. version of The X-Factor. Ultimately, this failed and instead found more pop culture familiarity bringing America’s Got Talent to NBC.

Cowell is clearly invested in ‘America’s Got Talent’ again this year

According to reports already two years ago, Cowell was asked to return as a judge on the ABC revival of American Idol. He refused because he said the show couldn’t recreate the magic he had with the original triumvirate of judges (Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson). You can say he has a point, even if the current judging panel camaraderie on ABC is the only thing keeping it halfway entertaining.

Sometimes we wonder if this new American Idol will even survive another year based on the low ratings.

In the meantime, Simon Cowell will be back this May for another season of America’s Got Talent with a couple of new judges on the panel. From all indications, he’ll be committed to this indefinitely since it’s become a summertime tradition on NBC for 14 seasons. Ironically, it seems to gain more momentum while Idol’s trajectory continues to fall as viewers expect to see a more diverse talent pool.