Television just isn't the same without Simon Cowell. Whether you love or loathe him, there's little denying his impact on reality TV competitions and pop-culture in general. Cowell returns to the tube Wednesday night, when his beloved project (and outside-of-America phenomenon) "The X-Factor" comes to Fox at 8 p.m.

It's a two-hour series premiere, so don't be afraid to have that cup of coffee after dinner. If you've somehow avoided the $35 million marketing plan for the show, here are the bullet-points you need to know:


•••• The judges are Simon Cowell, Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls, ex-"Idol" judge Paula Abdul and music big-wig L.A. Reid. Expect Cowell to be rejuvenated, Paula to say something head-scratching and Reid to play the straight-man. Scherzinger is the wild card.

•••• The first live performance show isn't until Nov. 2. Until then, there are auditions, "boot camp" and something called "Judges Homes."

•••• The host is some guy named Steve Jones. He hosts BBC 1's "The Drop Zone." He's Welsh.

•••• "The Voice" stole a page from "X-Factor" with its mentoring process. The "X-Factor" judges will work with the contestants, split into categories of groups, men younger than 30, women younger than 30 and over-30.

•••• As opposed to "Idol," "X-Factor" performances will be all-out affairs. Think MTV Video Music Award performances (elaborate set design, dancers, etc.). It makes you wonder how much theatrics will play a role for voters.

•••• The winner gets a $5 million dollar recording contract with Syco/Sony.

•••• 2,490 — that's the number of minutes the show will be from start to finish (the winner is announced Dec. 22). Get comfortable.

•••• "The X-Factor" is worth watching based on the gamble alone. Fox is all-in with Cowell's brain-child, and it will either be the thing we're all talking about at the water coolers all fall and winter or it could be one of biggest flops in television history. It will be epic in some way.

•••• Check out TV Lust after the show for my running diary of the first episode.