Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Review: THE X-FACTOR

The X-FACTOR is just AMERICAN IDOL with Pepsi glasses. Who is Simon Cowell kidding when he says it’s “completely different” from IDOL? Since he’s on it reunited with dingbat Paula Abdul it’s actually MORE like IDOL than IDOL is now. But to say that more categories and a studio audience for initial rounds makes the show different is like saying Carl’s Jr.’s is different from Hardees’.   Same greasy burger; different bag.

It’s the same format. And we’re fast approaching the expiration date.

If there is one true difference it’s that Simon Cowell is no longer just a participant. He’s clearly in complete charge now. So any bickering with the other judges is all total bullshit. He hired them. So any annoyance over Paula, that’s purely for show. At least when Paula says insipid or stupid things we know she’s being genuine. That’s the real her. But make no mistake, there by the grace of Simon go they.

How much will Simon’s influence continue to steer the show as it progresses? Is Simon just a judge or is he the Vince McMahon of singing competition series?

As for the other judges. L.A. Reid is Randy Jackson if Randy’s mom had taught him how to dress and he didn’t drop out of school after the third grade. He adds some class and intelligence. And that’s all swell but I’m looking for judges who have unique or entertaining perspectives.

Like Ben Folds on THE SING-OFF. This guy is great. And instead, the X-FACTOR took another judge from that show, Nicole Scherzinger. That’s like the old joke about the network executive watching MORK & MINDY and saying, “Get me the girl!” Nicole has J-Lo looks and is a great singer herself, but she offers exactly… nothing.

She replaces Cheryl Cole, who we Americans were told we couldn’t understand her accent. I understood her just fine. It’s not like she was Dick Van Dyke in MARY POPPINS. I still have no idea what that absurd accent was.

Apparently Ms. Cole is a big celebrity in the U.K. In the limited time I saw her on X-FACTOR all I could glean was (a) she’s pretty, and (b) she’s pretty.   Firing her for Nicole was a lateral move at best.

To me the fun of the show is when they discover some unlikely talent. The whole Susan Boyle phenomenon. Last week they had some schlubby Zach Galifianakis guy who blew everyone away with an amazing rendition of “At Last”. That was thrilling.  Fill the hour (or two... or seven) with those performers. You’ve got 100,000 to choose from. I’m tired of the freaks and imbeciles who prance around in ridiculous costumes and sing worse than Roseanne. Yes, I know, they’re only there so Simon can humiliate them on national television but seriously, that act is starting to seem older than Gallagher's.

In general, THE X-FACTOR just a retread with louder bumper music, a larger thunderdome set, and splashier graphics. Hardees’ with a disco ball.

This franchise has been a mega hit in many countries. So it’s only right that Mr. Cowell would assume it will be a smash in the U.S. I think he’s wrong. I think it will do okay. Not spectacular. Not breakout. Just okay. It doesn’t have that spark, that sense of freshness, newness, that… how do I put this succinctly into words?  It doesn’t have that “X” factor.

Last day to vote on your favorite sitcom of all-time.   Your results and my thoughts tomorrow.  Thanks for playing.  

23 comments:

Tom Quigley said...

Ken said...

"As for the other judges. L.A. Reid is Randy Johnson if Randy’s mom had taught him how to dress and he didn’t drop out of school after the third grade."

Ken, I think you meant Randy Jackson. Randy Johnson played quarterback for the Falcons in the mid-60's... Which may still qualify him to be a judge in a contest to see who'll replace Hank Wiliams, Jr. on Monday Night Football...

Anonymous said...

I thought Randy Johnson was a pseudonymn used only by male escorts.

Ken Levine said...

Good catch. Yes, Jackson. Spell check doesn't know the difference and neither do I when I'm half-asleep proofing. Thanks.

BigTed said...

I think the overall quality of the singers is far better on "The X-Factor" than on "American Idol" -- score one for older folks, I guess. (Although the teenagers seem more talented, too.)

"American Idol" tends to focus more on contestants who are either horrible or mildly talented plus good-looking, which means the ones who make it through to the end are meant to be vocally processed and styled into a pop-worthy package. If this show is more about the talent, I say more power to them.

What I hate about the show is that they humiliate the awful singers even more than "Idol" does, by making them perform in front of a huge live audience. And the difference between those chosen for quality and those chosen for humiliation is even more apparent. You want to say, "Hey, these people just showed up with thousands of others for an audition -- your producers are the jerks who selected them to go onstage."

By the way, I agree with you about Cheryl Cole -- her accent is fine, and while I've never heard her sing, she's extremely talented at being pretty.

IBG said...

Consider the fact that the self-proclaimed expert on the music business -- Simon Cowell -- when left to his own creative devices, came up with Il Divo. Four very neat metrosexuals singing operetta.

David Schwartz said...

On another subject completely, I saw "Two Broke Girls" last night and have been trying to give the show a chance. I like Kat Dennings and keep waiting for the writers to realize that a little depth of character might actually trump one liners every 15 seconds. Anyway, last night they had a line that's pretty unforgivable. One of the characters did something that was inadvertantly funny, and the other character said something like, "That was funny. That was 'Bugs Bunny gets shot in the face' funny." Really? Anyone remotely familiar with the Warner Brothers cartoons knows that Bugs Bunny doesn't get shot in the face! It's Daffy Duck who gets shot in the face! Sure he's scheming for Bugs to get it, but clearly it backfires and Daffy gets the blast! How could that not have been caught before the final run through?

benson said...

Oh, nooooooooo
BREAKING NEWS...

NBC has cancelled the Playboy Club.

Please try and control your uncontrollable sobbing.

GRayR said...

THE X-FACTOR, or American Idol; I just don't get these talent shows. But then I am old enough to remember not liking Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour either.

I think they all seem like a fancy version of the Gong Show.

As Mr. Horse said, "No Sir, I don't like it."

G

Anonymous said...

Ken,
Feel free to criticize Simon, Paula, et al, but please spare Dick Van Dyke at all costs! He's a national treasure. Here's a belated vote for his show as the all-time best sitcom.

Andy Johnson said...

Randy Johnson - The Big Unit, next stop, Cooperstown.

SkippyMom said...

Wouldn't it be nice and the X Factor went the way of "The Playboy Club" [after three episodes, natch.]

They are both complete and utter rip offs of other, more popular shows.

Frank said...

Roseanne should be a judge and call every singer better than her an "out of tune asshat!" to add some much needed comedy value.

Pat Reeder said...

I second Anonymous in his love for Dick Van Dyke. His show made me want to be a comedy writer and marry a hot chick named Laura, and I did both. We finally saw him live a couple weekes ago, co-starring with his brother Jerry in "The Sunshine Boys." I made sure we had front-row seats.

BTW, he knows his accent in "Poppins" was bad, but it wasn't his fault. I heard that for some reason, he was assigned a Cockney dialect coach whom he later learned was Irish. This is what happens when you lie on your resume to break into show business.

As for "X-Factor," haven't seen it. I got burned out on "American Idol" and all other "talent" shows at least three years ago. I got tired of karaoke singers being given worthless advice by "industry pros" whose taste is all in their tongues. Seriously, J-Lo is judging other people's singing now? Was William Shatner too busy?

Buttermilk Sky said...

Every time I see Dick Van Dyke, he's explaining that they hired an Irish coach to teach him Cockney. Since "Mary Poppins" came out about half a century ago, maybe it's time to let this one go. File it with Tony Curtis and "Yonda lies da castle of my faddah."

selection7 said...

...and I'm sure Dick is saying to himself "You first" with respect to everyone out there who also can't let it die. If I've heard it derided at least a half dozen times in the last half decade, then clearly it has staying power.

Personally, I don't see what the problem is. That movie was pure fantasy and his accent was silly fun. Mission accomplished IMO.

Anonymous said...

Ever read Ben Elton's "Chart Throb"? Very satirical and far too realistic funny little book on casting shows. I recommend it very much, although it's a little bit older.

Matthew said...

X-Factor was created by Simon Cowell specifically so he could have creative control. That's why he left the original Idol, which died as a result. The creator of Idol was understandably annoyed by this. Imagine how A, C and L would have felt if Kelsey Grammar pulled out of Frasier after the second season and started a new show, "Fraser" about an FM radio psychiatrist and his brother Miles.

The premise is indeed a blatant copy of Idol, which is why you're only just getting the format - the creator of Idol won a settlement banning an American version until after 2010.

Cheryl Cole is very pretty, but she's also a nasty piece of work. She beat up a toilet attendant 8 years ago, ccalling her a "jigaboo" in the process. She's not racist though, she married an immensely wealthy black man a few years after that. I wonder what the truth behind the accent story really is.

purplejilly said...

I like the X-Factor so far, mainly because I also like American Idol, and as you said, this show seems more Idol than Idol itself.

I wish they would completely drop the auditions of the people who can't sing. Many of them seem to be low-functioning and even with Aspberger's or Autism. To put them up on the stage there, only to have Simon send them away cruelly, is bullying to me, and frankly I am sick of it. It's different if the person is just a quirky performer, and the judges just don't like them. But when you can tell the person is just 'not right' from the pre-singing interview, then I get so annoyed. They need to ditch it, because it's just cruel and I get no laughs from watching someone vulnerable be laughed at like that.

I think they need a better host, too. Welshie is good looking enough for the guy smiley host rule, but he doesn't have the finesse and the ability to joke and stay quickly on his 'verbal' feet like Seacrest does. Maybe they could just hire Seacrest.. hmmm..

And I think you are also dead on about Simon running the show. They had that one ridiculous audition where I guy dropped his pants, and Simon just sat there, *trying* to look surprised, but I think he knew it all along, and wanted to see what he could get away with in terms of controversy on American TV.

Still, I'll watch it, because I am a fan of singing, and I love the moments when I am unexpectedly surprised, moved, and find an underdog to cheer for. I love it when I can watch someone blossom on the stage. And this show seems like ti will have these moments for me.

D. McEwan said...

Eddie Izard suggested that the accent Van Dyke employed in Mary Poppins was Australian, but he wasn't sure either.

" benson said...
Oh, nooooooooo
BREAKING NEWS...

NBC has cancelled the Playboy Club.


Rats! I'd gotten so caught up in skipping it every week. Now what will I ignore while I'm also ignoring Hawaii Five-0?

Ref said...

Haven't seen this one yet, but I will given that it's not just a packaging gimmick for the next twenty-something pop star. I also agree that casting people who obviously have spectrum disorders in order to publicly abuse them is tasteless.

ChicagoJohn said...

Here's my take on X Factor;
They spent weeks auditioning performers to find the great ones. Then they give them a song, 5 hours to learn it, and have them sing it with 10 other people.
And that's supposed to help them find the best singer?
Jazzlyn, a young woman who has shown more soulfulness then the last 3 idol winners combined, was overwhelmed by the process and went up on the lyrics.
Now if the process is 'real', then she's gone. But if they want to keep one of the best singers in there, she's the first one that they should keep.

Which leads me back to my one problem with every 'idol' show:
They take talented singers, and then have them sing material that isn't in their realm. That isn't about art. Its not even about pop music. Its about smothering every piece of originality out of anyone they find, until the most generic and bland singer rises to the top.

Real Art said...

I laughed hard at the Gallagher reference! Nobody seems to remember him....

I don't watch reality shows, but I'm fascinated with the idea that such a hateful man(Simon) has somehow managed to make himself the topic of so many conversations. It's almost as though people feed on nastiness these days.

David, I'm waiting on Two Broke Girls to get better, too. Ken mentioned a while ago that we should never judge a show by it's second episode, and that came to mind while watching TBG the other night. I hope he's right, and that it'll get better. I also hope they lose the horse - that's just stupid.

Gary West said...

Ratings-wise - out of the gate - top 16 and 17. Idol it is not. Let's see if it goes up or down.