By Liz Thomas and Eleanor Gower

Fired: Cheryl Cole, pictured arriving at the Los Angeles X Factor auditions in June, will appear in tonight's episode

She was dramatically fired from the U.S. X Factor after just three weeks as a judge back in June.

Yet Cheryl Cole has had an overwhelming response from U.S. critics who hail her as the better judge over her replacement – the pop singer Nicole Scherzinger.

Many prestigious U.S. television critics saw previews of the opening episode, which airs tonight, and branded Nicole a 'downgrade' from the British star, who appears in approximately half of the programme before she is replaced.

'The opening episode gives a surprising amount of screen time to Cheryl Cole, a British pop star whom Mr Cowell jettisoned from the panel last spring, in the middle of auditions,' said Neil Glenzinger of the New York Times.

'In the premiere she just kind of disappears midshow, without much explanation, and suddenly Nicole Scherzinger of Pussycat Dolls is in her chair.

'It’s a downgrade. Ms Cole showed glimmers of being interesting; in two seasons as a judge on The Sing-Off on NBC, Ms. Scherzinger was a pretty face but, judicially speaking, not much more than a seat warmer. '

The Los Angeles Times's Mary McNamara is equally unimpressed with the former Pussycat Dolls singer.

Old line up: Cheryl was one of the original judges alongside L.A. Reid, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell, with Steve Jones and Nicole Scherzinger as hosts

'Cowell has said he replaced Cole because she seemed 'bewildered,' but on a first impression, she is much more interesting than Scherzinger, if only for her fabulous Geordie accent,' she writes.

'In early scenes [Nicole] seems more interested in tearing up and out-glamming Idol’s Jennifer Lopez than bringing much to the commentary.'

Steve Johnson of The Chicago Tribune says: 'Scherzinger doesn't come off as an obvious improvement in the early going. She's more earnest like Kara DioGuardi than lovable like Jennifer Lopez.'

'No improvement': Some U.S. media critics have been scathing in their reviews of Nicole Scherzinger's performance on the X Factor judging panel in comparison to Cheryl

And USA Today writer Robert Bianco seems similarly bewildered by the loss of Cheryl, writing that: 'Factor doesn't tell you why Cole was replaced or show you why she had to be.

'Scherzinger does seem both a bit sharper and more effusive in her comments, but that can be chalked up to editing,' he adds.

'Which is why, by the way, it would be wise to withhold judgements on the panel until we get to the live shows and we see how they really deal with time pressures and with one another.'

Welsh import Steve Jones, who takes on American Idol host Ryan Seacrest's hosting role also doesn't win many plaudits.

New panel: Nicole replaced Cheryl as a judge on the show, after Cowell said the Girls Aloud singer seemed bewildered and uncomfortable on the talent show

In action: Nicole sits to Paula's right on the show, which Cowell is hoping will compete with American Idol

The New York Times describes Welsh host Steve Jones as 'utterly irrelevant,' while The Boston Herald's Mark A Perigard says he 'is so far in the background, he might as well be on another network.'

The X Factor has been Cowell’s big venture and he has staked his reputation on making it a success, particularly as the U.S.’s other big reality show American Idol made by his rival Simon Fuller, pulls in big ratings.

It differs from American Idol because it has no upper age limit and groups can take part too.

Cowell had originally brought Cheryl to the U.S to work with him but she was axed after just four auditions.

'Irrelevant': USA X Factor host Steve Jones also gets short shrift from the critics in today's reviews

In a recent interview with Piers Morgan, Cowell said: ‘She looked a bit bewildered.

You come to a country like America, it's a bit deal, takes a while to adjust.

'And I took the view, along with a few other people, that she would have been more comfortable back in the UK.'

The 28-year-old British star still received her full $1.8 million (£1.2m) fee despite being axed so quickly in to filming.

Cheryl rejected an offer to return to the British version of the show, and an opportunity to work on Britain’s Got Talent.

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