REVIEW: The X Factor – FOX (Wednesday, Thursday 8:00 p.m.)

Simon Cowell returns to FOX in the award-winning international phenomenon The X Factor. This new competition series, hosted by Nicole Scherzinger and Steve Jones, gives viewers the opportunity to help choose the next global superstar or breakout music group. The X Factor judges will travel the nation searching for undiscovered talent 12 years old or over – both solo artists and vocal groups – who are willing to brave the panel for a chance to make their dreams come true. Auditions for The X Factor were held this spring in Los Angeles, CA; Miami, FL; Newark, NJ; Seattle, WA; Chicago, IL; and Dallas, TX. In a departure from other singing competition series, the first time a contestant auditions for judges Simon Cowell, Antonio “L.A.” Reid, Cheryl Cole and Paula Abdul, he/she will do so in front of an audience of thousands – raising the stakes and increasing the pressure to impress not only the judges, but also a potential legion of fans. This will be the ultimate test to prove they have the vocal ability, charisma and stage presence it takes to become a global superstar or breakout music act and win a $5 million recording contract with Syco/Sony Music. Those contestants who survive the first auditions graduate to “boot camp” and will be divided into four categories. Each category will be mentored by one of the show’s judges. Not only is it a competition between the hopefuls to stake their claim for the coveted win, but it’s also a showdown among the judges as to whose acts will dominate the competition and make it to the finals. The judges may have their say in how the competition progresses, but it will be up to America to decide who ultimately has The X Factor. – FOX

90 out of 100

Yes, that’s right, Simon Cowell’s new reality singing competition, The X Factor is absolutely fantastic and we are so glad to see him come back to American television and bring a sense of sanity and a level of legitimacy that’s been missing here for oh, so long. Now, we aren’t just referring the gush-fest that American Idol has become, we’re talking about the entire landscape of talent competition reality series, which frankly have been going downhill for a long time. When Cowell and Abdul left Idol, we knew that was the end.

Folks, before you even say it (because we know you’re thinking it), this is NOT the Fall version of American Idol.  Think of The X Factor as the far more refined, polished and mature version of American Idol.  It’s American Idol if American Idol went to finishing school.

As far as the competition itself is concerned, again, this is not American Idol and there was an interesting exchange between Cowell and Reid where Cowell pretty much had to explain to Reid that this was not American Idol (without coming right out and mentioning American Idol, but you got the point) and that it’s less about the talent and performance that they are bringing to the table today and more about whether or not they can be worked with and fine-tuned into becoming a star, hence it’s about ‘The X Factor.” And thank goodness that Cowell did that, because we in the audience needed that explained to us as well.

If you haven’t seen the premiere, yet, believe it or not, Simon Cowell has become a kinder and gentler Simon Cowell and in fact, Antonio “L.A.” Reid is even more Simon than Simon is.  In the beginning, we thought the less-sarcastic and less mean-spirited Cowell was going to be disappointing but he turns out to be quite refreshing because it’s obvious how seriously he takes this compared to how he took American Idol at the end.  He realized that that show had become a caricature and so was he.  He’s grown up and we have as well.

Geo Godley will not be winning the $5 million recording contract

This time around is completely different. Sure, there’s always going to be the nut-jobs that show up to the auditions and The X Factor isn’t any different than any other show in that they will always give the lunatics airtime, but unlike American Idol where 50% – 75% of the audition shows are dedicated to the William Hungs of the universe, this new series  seems almost embarrassed to even show them.  That being said,  they had no choice but to show Geo Godley who sang a song he wrote himself called, I’m a Stud, and proceeded to drop trou and had his junk hanging out and bouncing all over the place (seriously… it was a moral imperative to show this audition.  Go here to see the whole thing… er… no pun intended). The best part was that it literally made Paula Abdul vomit, which is ironic because a gallon of vodka can’t even do that.  The truth is, though, that you have to show the bad acts on a show like this or there wouldn’t be any dramatic anticipation of whether or not the good acts would get through.

EDITOR’S NOTE: As we suspected, and has been confirmed by TMZ, Mr. Godley wasn’t naked, but was wearing a leopard-print, g-string style bikini.  This of course, explains why he wasn’t immediately arrested, nevertheless allowed to finish his song and do an interview afterward.  So, this really was a lot more P.T. Barnum than anything else.

For the first time watching any of these reality show talent competitions, we just wanted them to blow through the bad acts as quickly as possible because the talent that was showcased was some of the most amazing talent we have seen in years and quite frankly, there were three performers specifically that were better than anything American Idol has ever offered over the past decade.  Here’s the first one, for example, 42 year-old Stacey.

(Alternatively, go here to see the video in case Freemantle gets a bug up their butt and has the YouTube clip removed.  Holy Jeebus, Freemantle via YouTube hit us up with a copyright warning 120 seconds after it was uploaded.  Hey, Freemantle: we’re just giving you a free plug!  A little appreciation is what’s called for, we believe.) 

… And that was just the premiere.  Now if that’s not a reason to become an instant fan of the show, we don’t know what is and that’s the thing about good reality talent competitions; it’s not about the William Hungs or the Geo Godleys that intentionally or unintentionally make fools out of themselves, it’s about rooting for the regular folks that remind us of ourselves and that’s what American Idol and the other shows have lost and that’s exactly what Simon Cowell knows is needed and he brings that to The X Factor in spades.

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