Simon Cowell’s back. But has he changed his acerbic stripes?

The “American Idol” alum’s much-hyped new show, “The X Factor,” bows in September. And in an extended preview released today, audiences are initially treated to a softer, gentler Simon. One who applauds the “spirit” of a tone-deaf young girl and isn’t repulsed by grandstanding and makes nauseating nice-nice with fellow judge and frequent combatant Paula Abdul.

And then he goes all Pam Ewing on us and wakes up. It was just a terrible, terrible dream.

“X Factor” looks a lot like “Idol” — complete with the judges sitting at a table during the private auditions and the eyerolling and the “I don’t mean to be rude but that sounded like every fingernail in the world just found a chalkboard”-type insults, all while Abdul prettily throws a bunch of tantrums.

Aside from the staggering $5 million dollar prize offered to the winner of “X Factor,” the main difference between the two shows is while “Idol” allows 15-year-old singers and declares contestants are past their sell-by dates after their 28th birthdays, “X Factor” accepts competitors as young as 12 and has no upper age-limit.

So now you’ll get to see little kids and old people cry, too! Yay!

Oh, go ahead and be sanctimonious about it, but don’t act like you won’t watch.

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