Steve Jones recently spoke to reporters about the biggest challenges of hosting The X Factor, those alleged threats against Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger following Drew's exit, and facing his own critics:
How has the X Factor experience been so far?
"It's been fantastic, everything I hoped and much more. It's definitely measured up to the dream job status I was hoping for. It's tough, to be honest with you, it's a hard show to do. It's kind of surprised me a little bit how hard the process is - the live element and steering the judges. It's hard to come across as a fun person and polite when you're steering such a beast in limited time, but I've enjoyed hanging out with the judges, making new friends in the production team. It's amazing. I'm enjoying my new life here in LA - nice house, nice car, I'm paying my taxes, I'm legit!"
What has been the single most challenging aspect of hosting the show?
"Probably the time element, getting everything done in the limited time we have. In all honesty, two hours is a long time as such to start and finish any show, but we have the judges to contend with and these people just speak endlessly! They will say the same point five or six times in succession and for me, that's the most difficult bit. I relish every word these people say - they are fascinating to watch and listen to, but I'm the guy who has to cut them off because we have limited time.
"I know everybody at home is enjoying what they are saying and I'm the guy who has to say, 'Simon, please, we have to move on'. I daresay everybody at home is thinking, 'Why is he stopping Simon? This is Simon Cowell!' But if I don't, the show will kind of end with no conclusion, there will be no winner and I'll get in a mountain of trouble with Fox! That's the most difficult thing for me definitely."
You have had your critics this season. How does it feel to hear some of those comments?
"It's kind of to be expected. I certainly don't like everybody on TV so I wouldn't expect everybody to like me. The only criticism I found difficult is when people are calling me rude and stuff, which I'm not. I'm there to do a job, ask certain questions and move the show along. If I can't do that, then Fox, Fremantle and Simon will find someone who can. It can be harsh when people call me rude and not very nice, because I'm not rude and I am nice. Critique my hosting skills, say, 'I don't like his hosting, he's crap', say I'm not funny, I get that, that's your prerogative, but it's been a bit harsh the rudeness thing.
"I'm literally just doing my job trying to keep the show moving otherwise it will just kind of end and there will be no conclusion and I'll be in a lot of trouble. That's been a bit difficult, but I take it all with a pinch of salt. It's a TV show at the end of the day, there's a lot at stake but perspective is important in what I do."
How does it feel to bear the brunt of raw emotions on TV like what happened with Simon when Drew was eliminated or when Lakoda Rayne were unhappy at what you said and were later reported to have given you the silent treatment...
"That's not true. They didn't give me the silent treatment after the show! I talked to them at length and just saw them last week, actually. When I said the dream is over I didn't mean singing in general, I meant The X Factor dream. I should have been a bit more emphatic there but it's just one of those things."
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How do you know what to say and do you ever think it's unfair when people take out their emotions on you?
"I have broad shoulders, I can take it. If people want to vent their frustration and aim it at me then so be it. I've been in the business for a long time now so I can kind of take it. I'm not saying it's not hurtful, it can be when people are calling me rude and stuff, because I'm not. I like to think of myself as a nice person trying to get a job done and that's why I'm there. In regards to saying the right thing in that situation and preparing for it, you can't prepare for it. I don't know who is about to leave the show or what is going to come out of my mouth. It's all happening in a moment, which is one of the wonderful aspects of the show - you just don't know what is going to happen and that's what everybody wants from their job - variety - so it's exciting in that regard.
"As a general direction for where I want to go, I want to find out what they are feeling, get last words, address the audience, ask Simon to comment on the act and where it went wrong. It's a general area but I really don't know what will happen from one moment to the next. Sometimes the brain is thinking, 'I need to ask this quickly' and it comes out and seems a little bit abrupt, and maybe that's something I have to work on in the future. But make no mistake, it's a high pressure situation. I'm trying to gain information from the contestants and judges and also have the producers screaming stuff in my ear to move it along. It's tough but that is in no way a complaint. It's exciting and I enjoy the pressure."
What did you make of Simon's reaction when Drew was eliminated and he refused to talk to you?
"My initial comment when I was talking about it after the show was that I thought it was a bit childish on Simon's part. People are invested in the show and want to know what he thinks - I certainly do. When I'm asking him for a final word I'm just as intrigued as everyone else. When he refuses to do that it kind of defeats the purpose and object of the show. People are watching and deserve to hear what he is thinking. I got a little bit annoyed as you can probably see from the dramatic hand waving! I was annoyed because I want to know what that complicated man is thinking! It's a big situation and a big moment for Drew.
"I know he was utterly crushed and just felt cheated, like people were attacking him from all sides. The great Simon Cowell shut down in that moment and didn't know what to do with himself, but that's the show - emotions are all over the place and it's an emotive arena to be in."
What do you think about the allegations of death threats against Paula and Nicole following Drew's exit?
"Well, death threats always raise a certain amount of concern. I wouldn't like to speak to the validity of them but I think a death threat is always something you have to take seriously. I'm sure security will be amped up at the studio. It's difficult to comment on. It's awful but it's a TV show. I know there is a lot of money and fame at stake, but still, everybody just chill out please. It's a TV show."
The judges seem to have a volatile relationship on screen. Do you see any traces of that backstage?
"I definitely see traces of that backstage. It's very entertaining to watch. One of the aspects of the show which has surprised me is the lack of theatrics - it's real. Simon was really pissed at Nicole and Paula last week. He was livid. There was no theatrics, he wants to win, it's Simon Cowell, he's not really used to losing. He genuinely thought Paula had used Drew as a pawn or something, which I know for a fact Paula would never do, but Simon just felt he was being attacked from all angles.
"It surprised me how nasty it can get on occasions. These are very popular, very big egos out there. None of them want to lose. That's one of the things that surprised me about it - how real it is out there. It's really happening, it's not theatrics and it's really horrible on occasions."
What is the most important thing for you to convey to the eliminated contestants at the end of the show?
"That I will miss them and they've done a fantastic job and their lives are not over. I know in that moment it seems like that is the end of everything, and of course it's a tough situation to be in, but that's not the truth and we know that. I want them to know there are more opportunities out there for them. They have got so far. So many people entered the competition and then to get down to final 30 or 20 or 7 is a monumental achievement. I want to tell them, 'This isn't the end for you. It's the end of The X Factor but this isn't the only TV show in the world or the only opportunity you'll have in the world'.
"It's hard saying goodbye as well. I've spent weeks with these people and that's it, it's over and I might not see them on a regular basis again or ever again. My changing room is on the same level as the contestants and I hang out with them all day, we chat, we catch up. It's difficult when that abruptly comes to an end. I thank them for their company, say it's been great hanging out with them and good luck for the future. It's tough and an unnatural situation to be in, but that's TV for you."
Will you be returning for a second season?
"Hopefully I'll be back for season two but I always exercise caution in these matters. If I'm back I'll be overjoyed, if not I'll do something else, it's as simple as that. I really do hope [I'm back]. I love doing the show, it's a dream job so I'd be back in a heartbeat to do the second season."
What are you planning on doing after the finale on December 22?
"I'm going under the radar for about six weeks. I'm finishing on December 22 with the finale then going to Mexico for a little bit with my family to hang out until about the sixth of January, then I'm coming back to LA and doing a roadtrip from LA to New York, again with my family. When February comes I'm going back to Britain to do a project with the BBC for a couple of months then I'm back in LA in late march."
The X Factor continues tonight (Wednesday, December 7) at 8/7c on Fox
Watch a promo for tonight's episode below: