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Cowell: This year's 'X Factor' better than ever

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X Factor judge Simon Cowell has promised that the forthcoming series of the talent show will be the best ever.

Speaking at ITV's Autumn launch today, Cowell said that in previous years the programme had been more like a "popularity contest" than a talent show, but with two more audition locations to go, he already had some talented contestants. "It's in a different league this year," he added.

Cowell did describe one notable exception: "In the London auditions there was the worst act ever in any talent show. [They're] beyond belief. They're like these mutants, like the aftermath of a nuclear bomb going off and this is what's left," he said.

When asked whether he was looking forward to working with Louis Walsh, who he referred to as "the smuggest person in this country", Cowell said of his returning fellow judge: "If he had a tail he'd wag it every day."

Cowell and new host Dermot O'Leary were being interviewed by ITV head of entertainment and comedy Paul Jackson. O'Leary said that he was still getting used to handling the rejected at the auditions: "I'm still trying to work it out. It's a emotionally exhausting show to do."

This year's series includes a new category for 14-16 year olds, and an extra judge in Dannii Minogue to sit alongside Cowell, Walsh and Sharon Osbourne.

In a clip of the show, Osbourne said that she felt it was "her year to win", adding: "If I don't win I will fire myself - before someone else does!"

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