Drama Surrounds Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and 'The X Factor' on Eve of First L.A. Taping

Paula Abdul
Paula Abdul
 Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for VH1

Will Paula Abdul show up for the start of The X Factor on Sunday?

That’s the big question surrounding the Simon Cowell-produced singing competition, which begins taping the judges’ rounds in Los Angeles this weekend. Abdul is said to be in active negotiations to join the show’s judging panel, alongside Cowell and previously-announced judges Cheryl Cole and Antonio “L.A.” Reid.

But those talks have not progressed as smoothly as Cowell, Fox and producer Fremantle North America might have hoped. One issue, according to sources, was an option that CBS had on Abdul based on a deal for her to participate in the short-lived CBS competition show Live to Dance. That deal, according to two sources close to X Factor, contained language that could have prevented Abdul from joining the new show. 

READ: Fox's 'X Factor' to Have Two Hosts (Exclusive)

A CBS source says any issues with Abdul’s Live to Dance deal have been worked out, but another source says the break wasn’t so clean.

Cowell has not been shy about telling media he wants Abdul on X Factor. His rep, however, told THR on April 24 that no deal was in place for the ex-American Idol star to join the panel. Cole was announced as the third judge on May 5.

Q&A: Simon Cowell on His Search for 'X Factor' Talent and What He Thinks of 'American Idol'

Now, with two days remaining until the judges are scheduled to report for duty, Abdul reps and X Factor producers are said to be locked in tense negotiations. A source close to the show said the expectation is still that a deal will get done and Abdul will be there for the opening rounds of judging. But another source was not so sure.

“People would be very surprised if she is there on Sunday,” this source says.  

It’s unclear how much Abdul’s compensation on X Factor has become a sticking point in deal talks. In August 2009, as she and her reps were negotiating for her to return for the 9th season of American Idol, she caught producers off guard by abruptly announcing on Twitter that she was leaving the show. At the time, Abdul was said to have demanded a large raise.

Last-minute deal-making also is not entirely new to Cowell. He didn’t decide to leave American Idol after its 9th season until just before a planned Television Critics Assn panel.  

"We agreed to the deal at half past eleven this morning,” he said last January. “It literally was as down to the wire as that."

The X Factor premieres in September on Fox.

Fox, Fremantle and reps for Cowell and Abdul declined to comment.

Shirley Halperin and Kim Masters contributed to this report.

Email: Matthew.Belloni@THR.com            
Twitter: @THRMattBelloni

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