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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Steve Jones of "The X Factor": "I'm Not Rude"

Because of other obligations, I haven’t been able to watch “The X Factor” every week. In fact, I’ve only seen three or four episodes this entire season.

But every time I do see it, I have the same problem—host Steve Jones. If you follow me on Twitter (@angelahbentley), you know I’ve called him rude and proclaimed him to be “no Ryan Seacrest.”

So when FOX invited me to a conference call with him to promote “The X Factor,” my first instinct was to blow it off. But I’m glad I didn’t. Because what I discovered is that the real Steve Jones is nowhere near the one we see on TV. The real Steve Jones is funny and engaging with personality to spare. And I think the show needs to find a way to spotlight that.

There were several questions about what the hardest thing for him is and he admitted that cutting off the judges—which I hate—is the hardest part for him. Even harder than eliminating the contestants.

“It’s a hard show to do. The live element, steering the judges. It’s hard to come across as fun when you’re steering it in a short amount of time,” Jones said.

“Two hours is a long time, but we have the judges to contend with. And they speak endlessly. I relish every word these people say. But I’m the guy who has to cut them off. It’s the most difficult part of the show. People at home are enjoying what they’re saying

Everybody at home is saying, ‘Why is he stopping Simon Cowell?’ If I don’t, the show will just end and I’ll get into trouble with FOX.”

Jones said the criticism is to be expected and he can handle it. But what hurts is when people call him rude, which I’ve already admitted, I have. “I’m not and I am nice. I’m there to move the show along.”

I totally understand Jones’ opinion, but I still think there is a better way for him to steer the show. And once he figures out how to put his personality into it more, I think he might just find it. But the director and producers need to give him a little longer of a leash, in my opinion…

As for the contestants’ reactions to what he has to say, Jones said he can handle that as well. But he admits figuring out the right thing to say is something he needs to work on for the future. “I’ve got broad shoulders. If people want to vent, so be it…You can’t prepare for it. I don’t know who’s about to leave. I don’t know what’s going to come out of my mouth. [The director] is saying, ‘Move them out of the way. They can’t hug right now. Move them apart.’…It’s exciting. I enjoy the pressure.”

Most of the call was devoted to Steve himself, so we didn’t hear a lot of his opinions about the final five. But here’s more of what he had to say…

On how it’s been for him: “It’s been fantastic. It’s definitely measured up to dream job status.”

On the death threats he’s received: “It is a TV show. Everybody just chill out.”

On comparisons to Ryan Seacrest: “I’m hugely flattered. He’s a titan of the industry. The biggest host on the planet. He’s a fantastic host. I couldn’t be more happy.”

On what he likes the most about doing the show: “I enjoy hanging out with the contestants and seeing them flourish and becoming little superstars. I love watching the judges. I just don’t know what the h--l is going to be coming out of the judges’ mouths. Steering them is a challenge.”

On whether he’ll be back for season two: “I always exercise caution with these things. Really I hope I’ll be back.”

On Simon’s reaction last week to Drew being eliminated: “It was childish on Simon’s part. When he refuses to comment, it defeats the purpose of the show. That’s why I was a little bit annoyed. I want to know what that complicated man is thinking. I know he felt utterly crushed. The great Simon Cowell shut down in that moment”

On the interaction between the judges: “It’s very exciting to watch. One of the aspects that surprised me is the lack of theatrics. It’s all real. Simon was really p---ed at Nicole and Paula. It surprised me how nasty it can get. There are big egos out there. None of them wants to lose. It can get really horrible on occasion.

On how America has been doing so far: “I’m not one to argue with America. They’re all so talented at this level. Anybody leaving was going to be a shock. That’s how lucky we’ve been.”

Tonight, the final five—Melanie Amaro, Marcus Canty, Rachel Crow, Josh Krajcik and Chris Rene—will perform two songs. Tomorrow night, Lenny Kravitz and Mary J. Blige will perform on the results show.

“The X Factor” airs tonight from 8-9:30 p.m. and Thursday from 8-9 p.m. on FOX...

And the finale, by the way, is scheduled for December 22nd

Photo Credit: Nino Munoz/FOX