'X Factor' Showstopper: Paula Abdul Gets Cut Off by Host Steve Jones; Judges React

Steve Jones X-Factor Host - P 2011

Steve Jones X-Factor Host - P 2011

Perhaps one of the most uncomfortable moments of X Factor’s first live episode Tuesday was about halfway through the two-and-a-half hour broadcast, when the show was running a good two minutes behind and host Steve Jones was forced to cut off Paula Abdul mid-sentence.

To recap: The Brewer Boys had just been eliminated by their mentor when they sheepishly apologized for not living up to her expectations. Fighting back tears, Abdul uttered a few words of encouragement but was promptly interrupted by Jones, who insisted they had to move on.

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“My producers were screaming, ‘We're way over, we gotta move on, stop them,’ ” Jones told The Hollywood Reporter following Tuesday’s show. “It was always a task to showcase 17 acts in two-and-a-half hours. With 16, we were going over, so it was a herculean feat that the production team pulled it off.”

But at whose expense? Judging by twitter reaction and that of the studio audience, viewers were aghast at the perceived dis, and then came the inevitable question: Would Ryan Seacrest have sweated the clock?

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“I don't want to stop these people arguing -- it's thoroughly entertaining,” said Jones. “But we're on limited time, so I had to stop her occasionally.” He makes no apologies for his actions, either. “I will never apologize for doing my job,” he said. “Paula was cool, but she did look a little bit annoyed.”

For his part, Simon Cowell relished in the drama. “I love when we're on the wire like this,” he said. “I love when the producers come over during the break and go nuts. And they're literally going crazy. And I like the fact that you can control that and create the tension. That's live TV. We could shoot this at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, but it would be the most boring thing in the world. I like the fact that there's a sense of danger.”

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As for Abdul herself, a good hour after the closing credits, she clearly hadn’t gotten over it. “It was a little awkward, to be completely honest,” she told THR. “It was right when Nathan Brewer said, ‘I'm sorry, Miss Paula, that we didn't live up to your expectations.’ I couldn't catch my breath, and that's when Steve cut me off. It was very difficult for me to let go to the Brewer Boys. I really love those kids.”

Abdul said she’s been putting in extra-long hours working with the groups. On Tuesday, she had been at the studio from 8 a.m. until 2 in the morning. “I've been working 12-15 hours a day nonstop,” she continued. “They've never performed on a television stage, so to teach them how to connect with the camera, enunciate their words…”

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Nicole Scherzinger and L.A. Reid are, of course, the new judges on the block, and in some ways, they have as much to learn as the contestants. So how did they handle the pressure of a live show? “I was terrified,” said Scherzinger. “We’ve never done this before.” Added Reid: “We tried to stay short and tight, but you can't really worry about it.”

So how far behind was the show? At its worst, two minutes, which later narrowed to 50 seconds and finally, the episode actually wrapped early, said Jones. “We were up and down,” he said. “But we pulled it back and in the last chunk, we actually ended under. So we flipped it around. We were too good for our own good.”