So many significant events occurred last year that Billy Joel could probably rewrite the lyrics to We Didn't Start the Fire and it would still end up being longer than War and Peace and Stacey Solomon: My Story So Far put together. Even the normally calm world of showbiz wasn't spared a flood of stories, from The Only Way Is Essex winning a BAFTA to everyone from Jeremy Clarkson to Ryan Giggs taking out super-injuctions.
The hacking scandal erupted and we witnessed a parade of celebrities including Charlotte Church, Hugh Grant and Sienna Miller show up at the Leveson Inquiry. Somewhere in-between Frankie Cocozza got booted off X Factor, Jodie Marsh became a bodybuilder, the Beckhams had a baby, Charlie Sheen went a bit loopy, Kim Kardashian got divorced after 72 days and the world came to realise that Pippa Middleton has a bum.
Amongst all these madcap shenanigans one ubiquitous squillionaire's annus horribilis was not given the attention it deserves, and so in the week he returns to the Britain's Got Talent judging panel let's take a look back at Simon Cowell's year and judge whether 2012 is set to be better for everyone's favourite purveyor of mediocre entertainment.
2011 in Simon Cowell's world started in April with the launch of the fifth series of Britain's Got Talent's and a fresh new panel, with Cowell and Piers Morgan being replaced with David Hasselhoff and Michael McIntyre. An average of 10.75 million people watched the series, only slightly down from the previous year's ratings, however critics didn't feel the new panel lacked the punch of its predecessor. A media storm then erupted when an anonymous online blogger claimed that the series was fixed for Ronan Parke, the bookies favourite at the time, to win. In the end though it was Scottish singer Jai McDowall who unexpectedly took the crown but who will probably follow similarly lustreless former winners George Sampson and Spelbound into relative oblivion.
Despite all this Britain's Got Talent was only a slight setback for Cowell and days after it ended the first real crisis of the year began, after only two weeks as a judge it was announced that Cheryl Cole had been axed from the panel of the X Factor USA because the producers of the show claimed that American audiences struggled to comprehend her accent. We are talking about Cheryl Cole here mind so somewhat predictably the British media went into a disproportionate meltdown and spent weeks baying for Cowell's blood. Mess with the nation's sweetheart Cowell and you're going to get burned.
Whilst shows like the X Factor and the Got Talent franchise have been hugely successful and made Simon Cowell his millions, in his rapid rise to the top he has had more failures than successes. There was Grease Is The Word (a rip-off of the BBC theatre reality shows), American Inventor (Dragon's Den-lite), Rock Rivals (X Factor meets Coronation Street) and Celebrity Duets (Strictly Come Dancing, with singing). However Cowell's most catastrophic failure came in early September with his new game show Red or Black?, a spectacle that had £15 million lavished upon it. It had all the hallmarks of a Cowell production: Ant and Dec as hosts, performances from Leona Lewis and One Direction and overdramatic lighting and music. Sadly with an average of only 5.04 million people watching the series it lacked something that other Cowell productions usually enjoy - viewers.
Just as soon as Red or Black? went up in flames Cowell left for the States to film the live shows for the first series of X Factor USA. The ratings for the audition stages of the show had been pretty dismal and the live shows followed suit. While the first series of The X Factor UK in 2004 had an average audience of 6.9 million (11.5% of the population) only an average of 12.49 million (4% of the population) watched the American version. The ratings were especially bad when you take into account that Cowell's now more well-known now than he was in 2004 and that the judges on the first series of the US version were more high-profile than those on the first series of the UK version.
Meanwhile in the UK, where X Factor was also airing, ratings were a similar issue. For the first time since both shows began Strictly Come Dancing was continuously beating The X Factor in the ratings battle when both aired at the same time. It seems that the new judges, Tulisa Contostavlos, Gary Barlow and Kelly Rowland, were no match for Dannii Minogue and Cheryl Cole, although no-one's quite sure why. Finally to end the year Cowell was given a suitably unwelcome Christmas present, the news that the winning X Factor act hadn't got the coveted Christmas No. 1. This was the second time this had happened but the first time an online force hadn't been the reason behind it.
So what does this coming year hold for Simon Cowell? Last Monday he reprised his role on Britain's Got Talent as the auditions for the new series began in Manchester, clearly hoping that he's the spark that was missing last year. It's unlikely that he can perform the feat for X Factor UK though due to contractual obligations in the States, so it's unclear what his strategy is to deal with that show's many problems. Crucially for him though his bosses are loyal and so X Factor US and Red or Black are both coming back this year, although probably with noticeably smaller budgets.
As he tries to rebuild his crumbling television empire it's hard to imagine what must currently be going through the head of a corporate robot like Simon Cowell but I hope that he's got the song his protégée Joe McElderry sang in 2009 on repeat, to quote, "The struggles I'm facing; The chances I'm taking; Sometimes might knock me down; But no, I'm not breaking". Cowell is the man who brought us Westlife, Robson and Jerome, Sinitta and Five, after all he has done for us the least we can do is give him a second chance.
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