While watching the introduction of Fox’s newest reality show, “The X Factor,” one had to wonder if this was going to be yet another wannabe carbon copy of the American Idol juggernaut. The reteaming of American Idol judges Simon Cowell (who is also The X Factor’s creator) and Paula Abdul is yet another reason to be skeptical of The X Factor’s originality. Yet, despite the hurdles, once the show aired last week, it proved to be more impressive than many expected. First of all, The X Factor has upped the stakes in several ways, including a bigger prize (a $5 million dollar recording contract, versus Idol’s $1 million dollar recording contract), and a butterfly-inducing audition process that expects contestants to perform not only for the judges, but in an arena filled with thousands of their peers. Groups are also allowed to compete on The X Factor, making the show more similar to Fox’s America’s Got Talent than American Idol.
The X Factor allows for a broader age range than American Idol, permitting people ages 12 and up to compete. Idol has often been criticized for its unwillingness to increase its age limit past 30 years old, which is Idol’s loss, because they have undoubtedly missed out on highly talented artists such as Stacy Thomas, a 42-year old single mother of two young children who appeared on The X Factor last week. After learning about her personal struggles (financial woes, recovering from a bad break-up during which she was abused physically and mentally by a man who repeatedly told her she was “too old” to make it as a singer), the audience finally got to hear Thomas’s awe-inspiring voice as she belted out Aretha Franklin’s “Natural Woman.” Thomas delivered big time and brought the judges and audience to their feet in a massive standing ovation, proving talent cannot be defined (or restrained) by age.
South Florida also saw one of its own embraced by the judges with open arms- 18 year old Melanie Amaro from Sunrise blew everyone’s socks off with her performance of Beyonce’s “Listen” from the film “Dreamgirls.” At the end, Amaro received a standing ovation from the judges and audience and, just like that, another South Florida star was born.
The only criticism reserved for The X Factor thus far is in its replacement of British judge Cheryl Cole with co-host Nicole Scherzinger (front woman for the Pussycat Dolls) after just one episode last March, reportedly due to concerns about her heavy accent. New York Times’ Neil Glenzinger responded after watching last week by saying “It’s a downgrade…Ms. Cole showed glimmers of being interesting…Ms. Scherzinger was a pretty face but, judicially speaking, not much more than a seat warmer.” It seems that Scherzinger has some work to do if she is to win over America, something American Idol succeeded in doing by adding Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler as judges.
So, how did The X Factor’s ratings stack up against American Idol? Not too great, unfortunately. According to CinemaBlend.com, The X Factor’s premiere drew in 12.3 million viewers, as opposed to Idol’s season 10 premiere, which had a whopping 25.2 million tuning in. Prior to The X Factor’s premiere, Simon Cowell stated during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that a viewing audience of less than 20 million would be a “disappointment.” Given the difference in formats between the two shows, here’s to hoping that Cowell doesn’t pack it in just yet- this reviewer believes The X Factor has what it takes to make it for the long haul (which means it has, well, the X Factor)!