“The X Factor” U.S. has been described as “the most expensive reality show in TV history.” With a $5 million grand prize and with executive producer/judge Simon Cowell becoming the highest-paid star on U.S. TV for the 2011-2012 TV season (Cowell gets $75 million a season for “The X Factor” U.S., according to TV Guide), it’s no wonder that expectations were high. The show’s first season was televised from September to December 2011.
So was the show worth the cost? Many would say “no,” based on the fact that ratings for “The X Factor” U.S. have been mediocre for total number of viewers, not just in the U.S. but also in other countries where it was televised around the world. (The show was rarely No. 1 in its time slot in the U.S., but it was frequently No. 1 with 18-to-49-year-olds, the most coveted demographic for U.S. TV advertisers.) “The X Factor” U.S., which is televised in America on Fox, has averaged about 11 million U.S. viewers per episode, compared to Fox’s “American Idol” (Anerica’s No. 1 show for several years), which averages 23 million U.S. viewers per episode.
As for critical acclaim, “The X Factor” U.S. was blasted by many TV critics and other viewers for a number of reasons. It is highly unlikely that “The X Factor” U.S. will get any Emmy nominations, unless a category is created for Most Use of Strobe Lights, Pyrotechnics and Smoke Machines on Stage.
Now that “The X Factor” U.S. has finished its first season, Cowell has told the media that big changes are coming for the show’s second season in 2012.
Based on viewer feedback on the Internet, here are the Top 5 changes (in no particular order) that people want to see for “The X Factor” U.S. in 2012:
Less Bickering and Ego Posturing Among the Judges/Mentors
One of the biggest complaints about “The X Factor” is that the judges/mentors try to make the show about them instead of the contestants. The judges/mentors take too much credit for a performance when they weren’t the ones performing the song on stage. Likewise, the judges/mentors are quick to blame/criticize the other judges/mentors for performances they did not like, and that leads to a lot of time-wasting bickering which is a big turn-off to many “X Factor” viewers. On multiple occasions when this has happened, it turns out the contestant, not the judge/mentor, was the one who really chose the song that the criticizing judge did not like. It makes the criticizing judge/mentor look foolish and immature to lash out at the wrong person.
The show’s judge/mentor format will not change because that is one of the main things that separates “The X Factor” from “American Idol.” So the judges/mentors are always going be competitive with each other because they want to represent the winner. But viewers are tired of the judges competing to personally insult the other judges on the panel because it gets in the way of giving honest judgment/feedback about the contestants’ performances.
And many viewers hate it when the judges are hypocritical. For example, when a judge criticizes something that a contestant did in a competing category, but when a contestant whom the judge is mentoring does the same thing, the judge does not criticize that contestant. That kind of obvious bias is one of the things that people dislike the most about “The X Factor.”
Better Song Choices and More Disclosure About Song Choices
Many viewers have complained about weird or inappropriate song choices and not being able to see on TV who was really responsible for choosing the song.
After 49-year-old contestant Dexter Haygood (who was clearly influenced by James Brown and Mick Jagger) was assigned judge Nicole Scherzinger as his mentor, why was he constantly singing songs originally performed by female pop stars such as Beyoncé, Britney Spears and Katy Perry? Did he resist these song choices or did he really want to do these songs?
During “Rock Week,” when the contestants were supposed to sing rock songs, why was Chris Rene allowed to do a reggae song (Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry”), and why was rapper Astro allowed to perform a hip-hop song (Puff Daddy, Faith Evans and 112’s “I’ll Be Missing You”)? Who really pushed for them to sing those songs? Did Rene and Astro suggest any rock songs but were overruled by judge L.A. Reid, who was their mentor on the show?
During “Rock Week,” why was 13-year-old Rachel Crow told to sing the Rolling Stones song “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” which most adults know is a song about sex? (There’s a line in the song that says, “I can’t get no girlie action,” which is about as subtle as a steamroller.) Why wasn’t she given a more age-appropriate, more modern song out of all the rock songs that were available for her to sing?
It’s important for viewers to get a sense of who these contestants really are before they might spend their time voting for the contestants. For example, take Melanie Amaro, who ended up being the show’s first winner. Many viewers who don’t like her think that she was a boring, passive puppet of Cowell, who was her mentor on the show. But after she won, Cowell told the media that behind the scenes, Amaro actually resisted a lot of his song choices and other decisions he wanted to make about her performances.
Why didn’t viewers get to see that feisty side of Amaro’s personality — or for that matter, why weren’t any conflicts shown between the judges and the contestants in their mentor categories? Was it because Cowell and the other producers of the show don’t want viewers to think that that the judges get any disagreement from the contestants whom the judges are mentoring? Viewers actually want to see more of these contestants’ authentic personalities and artistic choices, such as what kind of music the contestants really want to perform if they were doing their own concerts and how they want to perform it.
Versatility is welcome, but it has to ring true to the people watching the show. If the audience doesn’t believe that the contestant really likes the song, then it can hurt the contestant’s credibility (and the judge/mentor’s credibility) in the long run. This is was the main problem that many viewers had with Lakoda Rayne, a female quartet that was created by “The X Factor” from contestants who were rejected as solo singers by the show and allowed to continue in the competition only on the condition that they join this group. Paula Abdul was Lakoda Rayne’s mentor on the show, and several viewers (and a few of the judges) expressed doubt that Lakoda Rayne was sincere about liking the music they were assigned to perform as a group, because Lakoda Rayne did not seem entirely comfortable with the group’s musical identity. Lakoda Rayne admitted in interviews that the group had a lot of difficulties in choosing which songs to perform — and yet none of those struggles were shown on TV. In many cases, numerous people thought that “The X Factor” fell short in giving viewers the opportunity to see the contestants’ real personalities and who they are as artists because viewers almost never got see how the contestants’ performance songs were chosen.
Replacements for Steve Jones and Nicole Scherzinger
It’s no secret that host Jones and judge Scherzinger are very unpopular with viewers. As previously reported, many people think that Jones is a dull, humorless and awkward host, especially during the live episodes. Scherzinger is even more disliked by “X Factor” viewers than Jones is, because most viewers think she is ditzy, inarticulate, too emotional, “fake” and a horrible decision maker when it comes to performances from contestants in her mentor category and when it comes to eliminating contestants. Even though there were rumors that Scherzinger might go back to hosting the show (which was the “X Factor” job she originally had before she replaced Cheryl Cole on the judging panel; footage of Scherzinger co-hosting with Jones was never shown on TV), unfortunately for Scherzinger, the majority of feedback from viewers is that they don’t want her on “The X Factor” at all.
Viewers want a host who looks like he or she is having fun on stage, who genuinely acts comfortable with the contestants, and who can interact skillfully with the judges. They also want a host who isn’t easily rattled by the pressure of having to finish a live show on time while entertaining an audience. As for what people want in an “X Factor” judge, they want credibility in the music industry, confidence (not arrogance) and a great personality. Viewers don’t like to see judges who have crying meltdowns every time they have to do their job of eliminating contestants. It’s expected that people (including the judges) will cry on the show, but when the sobbing is constant and when it gets in the way of doing a good job, that’s when viewers start to dislike the perpetual crier.
Less Distractions on Stage During Contestants’ Performances
A recurring complaint about “The X Factor” is that there are too many unwelcome distractions on stage while contestants are performing — too many backup dancers, too many blinding lights, too many unnecessary props and gimmicks. Viewers say that everything is just too, too much with “The X Factor” on stage, as if the show is trying to out-do “American Idol” in stage production.
Not all contestants want to be like Lady Gaga, whose stage show is about flashiness, daring costumes and a circus-like atmosphere. Viewers say that “The X Factor” should tailor each performance to fit a contestant’s artistic personality, not force them into stage productions or wardrobe that diminish or overshadow their performances. When a rock musician like Josh Krajcik is performing what he does best, it looks ridiculous when he is surrounded by backup dancers who look like they’re performing in a Cirque du Soleil production. As the cliché goes, sometimes less is really more.
More Emphasis on Developing Great Talent, Less Emphasis on Crazy Contestants and Sob Stories
We all know that “The X Factor” has copied the “American Idol” idea of showing bad performances and crazy contestants during the audition phase of the show. Viewers have come to expect that type of programming, so it’s not going away anytime soon. The problem is that in the audition episodes, people think “The X Factor” spends too much time showing the crazy and the untalented contestants and not enough time showcasing those who have a real chance of winning. Viewers basically think bad contestants are better off being shown in small doses, not long 10-minute segments, because viewers think that the truly talented contestants should get more air time in the audition episodes.
When it comes to contestants who make it to through to the live episodes, viewers also think “The X Factor” has been too heavy-handed in emphasizing sob stories of contestants. If someone was in abusive relationship, has big financial problems, battled an addiction or has any other personal issues outside of the show, it’s OK to mention it a few times. But when viewers are constantly hit over the head with these sob stories, it’s an annoying distraction from why the contestants are there: to be judged on their performances on stage.
Many people think that “The X Factor” is wasting opportunities to show more of what goes on with the mentors developing the talent of the contestants. People would like “The X Factor” to show more footage of the contestants interacting with their mentors, because it’s the relationships with the mentors — not the relationships with the abusive ex, financially strapped parents, drug counselor, etc. — that make the performance decisions that are crucial to winning on the show.
Time will tell if the decision makers for “The X Factor” U.S. will listen to the public’s feedback about what viewers really want to see on the show, but one thing is for sure: If the show continues to make the same mistakes that turned people off in the first season, then it will continue to lose viewers.