At long last, Simon Cowell returns!

On The X Factor -- premiering Wednesday on FOX -- the acerbic Brit, along with fellow judges Antonio "L.A." Reid, Nicole Scherzinger and Paula Abdul, mentors bands and solo artists alike to find the top musical talent in the U.S. The prize: a $5 million recording contract with Syco/Sony Music -- five times the bounty received by winners of Cowell's former series, American Idol!

Abdul promises "Grammy-caliber" performances, while Reid argues that the talent -- some of which are seen in the preview clip above -- make for must-see TV. "When you get a 5,000-person standing ovation and you get Simon off his ass, you know you've done something special," he says.

"I'm actually having a good time!" Cowell says of making the show, which stopped for audition rounds in Newark, N.J., Dallas and Los Angeles. "It's more fun than I thought."

Cowell even enjoyed being sassed by a child rapper during auditions. "He absolutely chewed me apart," Cowell says with a laugh. "But I quite liked it."

For more on what to expect from Wednesday's series premiere, check out the video preview above.

The X Factor series premiere airs Wednesday at 8/7 C on FOX.

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