The X Factor Season One: What Worked? What Didn't?
After some time to rest, and some time to reflect on the first season of The X Factor, let's now analyze what worked and what didn't work for FOX's new reality singing competition.
Join me as we look back at the highs of Josh Krajcik's "Wild Horses" and Astro's near elimination, as well as the lows of L.A. Reid's judging style and Marcus Canty's hundreds of backup dancers.
Finding Favorites: As is the case for any reality competition, The X Factor was a platform for fans to pick a favorite and cheer for said favorite to win the $5 million recording contract. There is a reason why so many of these types of shows perform well in the ratings, and it is mostly because of the rooting interesting involved for the audience. I picked Drew and Chris Rene as a couple of my favorites early on, and even when I knew they didn't perform so well, I still wanted them to make it to the next round. That makes the viewing experience exciting, and it is a main reason why The X Factor will stick around.
Quick To The Finish: The fall season is much shorter than the spring. Where American Idol is able to have weeks and weeks of audition episodes, Hollywood weeks, and semifinals, before getting rid of one contestant per week during the live performances, The X Factor was not. Thank You! Simon and company chopped off a slew of finalists at the beginning of the live shows, and as the holiday season came quickly, the judges began cutting two at a time on the regular. The annoying judging table, the overproduced performances, and the statue that was Steve Jones would have become more and more difficult to watch the longer it went on. Short and sweet is advantage for The X Factor.
A Few Moments: Each week there were a couple of great performances, which almost made up for the large number of mediocre and terrible ones. Drew's "What A Feeling," Melanie Amaro's "When You Believe," Rachel Crow's "I Would Rather Go Blind," and Josh Krajcik's "Wild Horses" were a few of my notable favorites. I'm sure everyone had their own. What were yours?
Oh The Drama: A couple of factors led to the increased amount of results show drama on this first season of The X Factor. The first is that, unlike American Idol, the judges had some kind of control almost every single week. Even though Paula and Nicole had a difficult time making any type of decision, eliminations did occur each and every week, making it feel all the more personal. In reality, contestants should be angrier when all of America votes them out, but when there are actual human beings staring you in the face, telling you you're not good enough, that seems to hurt more. The second is the extremely low age requirement. The two most drama-filled results shows I've seen on tv were when Astro thought he was eliminated and when Rachel Crow actually was. These two were 15 and 14, respectively, and they acted like it. The first was an absolute brat, and the second cried uncontrollably. I feel bad for everyone involved, but it was great television.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK
The Flaw Amongst Flaws: There is a lot to dislike about The X Factor, but its biggest problem lies deep in the heart of what the show became. The judges made it about themselves instead of the contestants, and giving them their own teams made that self-absorption even greater. As bad as Randy Jackson has been on Idol, and as awful as Kara DioGuardi was a few years back, at least you can watch and assume they are giving what is trying to be an honest unbiased opinion. By making The X Factor a competition amongst the judges, the five minutes listening to them talk became ridiculously obsolete, because it felt like there was bias involved. As well there should have been...based on the structure of the show. Why wouldn't L.A. want his guys to go further? Unfortunately, it led to L.A. beginning each of his compliments with "I wanted to hate this so much..." or something to that effect. Even Simon, who became famous for being brutally honest to Idol contestants, never said a bad word to one of his girls, when there were definitely times he would have been cruel in the past. He became a shell of his former self, and it just wasn't as interesting.
Just The Judges: While they were given the insurmountable problem of not being able to judge honestly, Simon, L.A., Paula, and Nicole were pretty difficult to watch all on their own merits. The combination of Paula and Nicole's crying became way too much over the course of the year. Simon's "thing" has ran its course. Let's not even get started on L.A. His need to have a rivalry with Simon - or the producers - might have been the single worst thing about the season.
Lack of Talent: This isn't simply The X Factor's problem. Idol has run into this issue, as will every singing competition series on tv. There is just only so much talent floating around without record contracts. If American Idol, The Sing Off, America's Got Talent, The Voice and The X Factor continue to grace our screens each and every year, there is going to be watered down talent.
Overproduced Performances: Most of the time it seemed like contestants, judges, and producers thought that having the x factor meant that you did a gigantic number with a million backup dancers, fireworks, jumping penguins, and a cow. Too many of the finalists’ voices were drowned out by the backup singers or by the music itself. The reason superstars can have production like that at their concerts is because they have already proved themselves. Stacy Francis has not, so we need to be able to hear her sing. The viewer isn't going to vote for someone who is moving around on stage while 15 girls dance and sing behind them. It won't happen.
Scategories: Boys. Girls. Over 30s. Groups. Do we even remember that there WAS a Groups category? No, because none of them were any good. Because a certain amount of groups had to make the finals, the Frankengroups of inTENsity and Lakoda Rayne made it to the Top 12 over girls like Caitlin Koch, who didn't even make the Top 17. There were so many more talented contestants in the boys and girls categories that it was not fair. It was not fair at all.
Do the pros outweigh the cons? I’m not sure, but I’m still a sucker for any reality competition, so I will definitely be back for season two. Would I be happy with a new cast of judges, and some changes to the structure? Absolutely.
Now it’s your turn, TV Fanatics. What did you love about this fall’s The X Factor? And what did you hate about it? Will you be returning for a second season in 2012? Weigh in below!
Dan Forcella is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.