Paula Abdul
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Simon Cowell, American Idol

It’s official: Paula Abdul will join Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole and LA Reid as judges on Fox’s The X Factor.

Abdul just appeared on stage at the first round of judged auditions in Los Angeles. The hire rejoins the two most popular American Idol judges on a new singing competition that will launch this fall.

Despite Cowell and Abdul’s previous on-air chemistry, Abdul wasn’t necessarily an obvious choice for the project. Some critics accused her of being spacy and inattentive on Idol, then she quit the hit show over a salary dispute, and her own competition reality effort, Live to Dance, tanked on CBS earlier this year.

The completed panel also marks a notable departure from the recent strategies adopted by the Idol flagship and NBC’s new rival The Voice. Both shows filled its judges seats with major name singers, from Christina Aguilera to Jennifer Lopez. Whereas Cowell and Abdul are best known at this point for their prior reality TV gig, and Reid and Cole are known hardly at all to American audiences.

The show will also be very Brit heavy, with not only Cowell and Cole from across the pond, but co-host Steve Jones is as well (Jones will co-host along with Pussycat Doll’s singer Nicole Scherzinger).

But as Cowell himself proved, reality shows don’t need stars, they make them — both contestant and judge alike. And having charismatic, sharp-witted talent with entertaining chemistry is more important than name recognition, assuming the X Factor panel doesn’t just come across like a support system for the return of Cowell to primetime.

“This show would never have been the same without Paula and I can’t believe I am saying this – I have missed her a lot, and I am thrilled she’s on the show,” said Simon Cowell in a statement.

“I am excited beyond words to be a part of ‘The X Factor,” added Abdul. “I couldn’t be happier to bring my love for cultivating talent and performance to such a wildly anticipated show,” said Paula Abdul in a statement. “I’m also delighted and grateful to be sitting next to Simon again…but you might want to check back with me in a week or two!”

Asked at Sunday’s auditions about the protracted, down-to-the-wire negotiations to sign her to the show, Abdul told reporters: “You know what? I’m here. And only Simon and I understand what went on. That’s all I can say. It’s fun though. I’m here.”

More to come later today from EW’s Dave Karger who’s at the auditions…

Episode Recaps

Simon Cowell, American Idol
The X Factor
Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland, and Paulina Rubio judge Season 3.
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