Cowell and Cole trade barbs as 'X Factor' returns

Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole exchange sharp words and scathing put-downs in the new series of 'The X Factor' starting tonight.

Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole exchange sharp words and scathing put-downs in the new series of 'The X Factor' starting tonight.

Sparks fly when Cowell brands the Girls Aloud star a “brat” during an early audition and jokes about her catty behaviour by putting out a saucer of milk for her.

After Cole tells one disappointed group they should consider a career in children’s television, Cowell sarcastically demands: “Have we got any cream?”.

When he catches her pulling faces at him, he tells her: “You’re a childish little brat.”

The pair also exchange words backstage and Cole admits she is missing Dannii Minogue after she is left on the judges’ panel in London with Cowell and Louis Walsh.

The arrival of guest judge Geri Halliwell does not improve the mood and the former Spice Girl, who stood in for Minogue on the Glasgow show, manages to annoy her fellow judges with her non-stop chatter.

Her long-winded approach leaves them lost for words as they struggle to get a word in edgeways.

The show returns for its seventh series with its trademark mixture of the tone deaf, the talented and a host of sob stories.

But it was Halliwell who caught the eye of show bosses, who compiled a montage of her breathless opinions for the first episode which was screened at the launch of the show, aiming to find a star to follow names such as Leona Lewis and Joe McElderry.

Judging by the reaction of her fellow judges, the constant references to her time in the Spice Girls and off-the-cuff advice to contestants about their “tone” soon wore thin.

At one point Walsh moans to the cameras that “Geri talks and she talks – some of it makes sense, not all of it”.

After watching a particularly poor act, Halliwell says: “I don’t know what to say,” to which Walsh retorts: “That’s a first.”

First contestant was house-husband Stephen Hunter whose mixture of soulful vocals and dancing last seen at a 1980s school disco set the tone for the rest of the show.

Despite missing his cue, the 41-year-old – who promised to “give it everything” – got the thumbs-up from all four judges.

Among the potential stars already identified was Gamu Nhengu, an 18-year-old student who left her native Zimbabwe for Scotland five years ago.

Her version of Katrina and the Waves’ Walking On Sunshine wowed the judges, with Simon Cowell praising her “old school jazz voice”.

Not everyone did so well and one tuneless trio in London left the judges stunned into silence with a performance Cowell later described as “possibly the worst group we’ve ever had on this show”.

Other potential stars included a singing waitress and a devoted Freddie Mercury fan who was given a rare second chance after her attempt to sing like her hero fell flat.

Minogue will rejoin the show but her place was taken at the auditions by a series of guest judges including former Neighbours star Natalie Imbruglia, singers Pixie Lott and Katy Perry, and Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls.

Cole admitted she enjoyed the support of the guest judges, saying: “It’s lovely for me that there are other women on the panel because I couldn’t be sitting between those two miserable so-and-sos on my own. I love having other women with us.”

Former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq has signed up as the new host of 'The Xtra Factor'.

The contestants are divided into four categories, boys aged 16 to 24, girls aged 16 to 24, over 24-year-olds and groups.

The new series of 'The X Factor' begins at 7.30pm tonight.

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