Simon Cowell is not bitter. Okay, maybe a bit. During the Television Critics Association summer press tour event on Monday when asked about his old stomping grounds at "American Idol," the man known for revealing exactly what’s on his mind said he thought that "seasons one through eight are good," suggesting that his final go-round and the two seasons after his departure were … well.

But when someone lobbed a question at him about the newest member of the "Idol" family , Mariah Carey , who he’d once touted as a possible panelist on his "X Factor," Cowell couldn’t help doling out a compliment, with just a wee bit of an edge.

"I’m happy for her," Cowell said, according to the Hollywood Reporter. "I like Mariah. I think she’s going to find it difficult to say no [to contestants] … she’s sweet. I think she’s going to be great."

Considering the rub against departed judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, who struggled to find new ways to give out gold stars during their two-season runs, Cowell was happy to bring up what has become the "Idol" Achilles heel. He proved it by praising the new diva judge on his show, saying that soft-spoken Britney Spears is not the Southern belle pushover you might expect.

"I’m not going to lie about this," he said. "I always said the No. 1 person I wanted on one of these shows was Britney. She’s intriguing. You see a different side to her and she’s a really great judge. … Britney is quite mean, which you’ll soon discover." Cowell also referred to his other new "Factor" judge, Demi Lovato, as a "brat" who is also "really likable."

Speaking at another panel (before the Carey announcement), "Idol" executive producer Nigel Lythgoe actually left the door open a tiny crack for Lopez to come back. "She said 99 percent that she was leaving," he said, "which is a strange thing to say; you’re either leaving or your not. I’m hoping that one percent means she’s not leaving us."

A short time later, though, according to the Reporter, Lythgoe, whose own contract for next year’s 12th edition of "Idol" is not yet finalized, said he’d like to see big changes in the show that saw its steepest ratings decline ever last season.

"I would really like to see the judges change every year," he said.

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