TV's new Mr Nasty

Wearside-born programme-maker Chris Cowey followed in the footsteps of Simon Cowell last night as a judge on ITV1's latest tuneful reality show.

Wearside-born programme-maker Chris Cowey followed in the footsteps of Simon Cowell last night as a judge on ITV1's latest tuneful reality show.

Soapstar Superstar kicked off with singing performances from some of the nation's favourite soap stars.

Joining Chris and judges were Cilla Black and Cher's former manager Bill Sammeth.

Coronation Street's Shobna Gulati and Wendi Peters, Emmerdale's Lucy Pargeter and Sammy Winward and former EastEnders Nicholas Bailey and Michael Greco were among the 10 actors and actresses singing for the public's votes - but they were undoubtedly looking for Chris' stamp of approval too.

Chris says he has no intentions of snatching Mr Cowell's Mr Nasty crown.

"There's only one Simon Cowell and he does it brilliantly," he said. "There's a really great group of people down here and I'm sure we're going to have a ball."

Having directed and produced some of the UK's best music shows over the years - including The White Room, The Brit Awards and Top of the Pops - it's not surprising Chris got the wrong end of the stick when ITV bosses asked him to be involved with the show.

"It didn't occur to me that they were asking me to be a judge," laughed Chris, who cut his teeth at Tyne Tees on shows in the late 1970s and 1980s such as Alright Now, Check It Out and The Tube.

"It's such a departure from what I've been used to - but I suppose that's why it appealed. I thought why not have some fun?"

Chris will be appearing on the nation's screens every night until the final next Saturday. But just don't ask him who he thinks will win it.

"I have to admit, that not watching soaps at all, I really had no idea who the contestants were, or which show they were from, which is probably good as a judge because I'm coming in with no pre-conceptions.

"They'll be purely getting judged on their singing performance - and who knows, if there's any great ones among them, I might end up working with them again in the future."

* Soapstar Superstar continues on ITV1 tonight at 9.10pm and then on ITV2 at 10.40pm with Jayne Middlemiss and former Blue singer, Duncan James.

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