Where does “The X Factor” go from here?
With judges Nicole Scherzinger and Paula Abdul and host Steve Jones fired from the musical competition show, only Simon Cowell and L.A. Reid remain from the first season. And while “X Factor” earned a healthy 4.3 rating in the 18-49 demo and 12.6 million viewers per week, the series failed to meet Cowell’s sky-high fall expectations, and its contestants never entered the cultural zeitgeist in the way that the young performers of “Idol” did.
Now “X Factor” exec producer Cowell may turn to his “American Idol” playbook again.After the veteran Fox juggernaut began losing steam in season nine, new judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler reinvigorated the show and goosed its ratings. Cowell, along with Fox reality topper Mike Darnell, will be looking to find the right personalities to bring that curiosity factor back to “X Factor.”
As a former “American Idol” judge himself, Cowell was a well-known personality to “X Factor” viewers, but most American viewers had no idea who Jones was before the singing-competition series launched. Scherzinger was a better-known quantity as a singer, but she became a target of criticism for questionable judgments over the course of the season. As for Abdul, Cowell may have believed their stormy on-camera relationship would bring “Idol”-like numbers and awareness to “X Factor,” but that was not the case.
As Cowell looks to build a fresh roster of top-draw personalities, there are plenty of marquee names being bandied about.
Mariah Carey and Britney Spears would seem to fit the female bill — if they’re interested. And a slew of male rockers could generate enthusiasm — think Guns N’ Roses lead singer Axl Rose or someone younger and more contemporary.
There’s also Rihanna, who used to be in Reid’s stable of musicians. And what would teenage heartthrob Justin Bieber think about being a primetime star? Fox will have Bieber on speed dial if he seems even slightly interested.
Many are convinced that whoever comes on board will have to have the gravitas to stand up to Cowell and be resolute in shouting their opinions above the din.
Whoever makes it onto the judging panel wish list, Fox and the producers are going to have to back the truck up with tons of cash to convince them to come aboard a show that is currently suffering from bad PR.
But New York-based TV analyst Shari Anne Brill believes that the slew of musical competition shows on TV in recent years has softened the market for “X Factor” — posing a significant hurdle no matter who sits on the judges panel.
“What made ‘Idol’ unique was that it was an annual event, and now with ‘X Factor’ those type of shows on Fox are semiannual,” Brill said. “They are taking away the specialness of each one.”
Indeed, Abdul already diluted the waters with her own CBS series, “Live to Dance,” in 2011, and NBC’s ratings hit “The Voice” stole some of the thunder from “Idol” and “X Factor” with its take on the performance genre.
Fox has not announced an audition or production schedule yet for season two of “X Factor,” but NBC will be looking to build some volume for its “Voice” as the show begins its second season on Sunday following the Super Bowl.
Interestingly, some have suspected that it was no coincidence the “X Factor” firings were made just days before “The Voice” returned to the airwaves, with Cowell and Fox hoping to take some of the thunder away from their reality rival.