I used to love The X Factor. I won’t say it was my favorite show on television, but I watched every episode live or at least the night of for the first two seasons and the beginning of this one. I was not only super on board that ship, I even wrote numerous articles defending everything from hosts to format changes, but over the past few months, I’ve ever so slowly changed my tune, to the point where I’m now ready to admit what so many have long thought: The X Factor is a complete mess that needs change desperately.
There are simply too many problems to overcome, and even worse, those in charge don’t seem to recognize what those problems are. Despite offering several new ideas to the larger singing competition genre, the show puts out a product that, more often than not, is frustrating, repetitive and sophomoric. It’s just not good television and rather than steadily improving, it’s bizarrely getting worse almost by the episode. Simon Cowell has assured fans the program will be back for round four next year, but at this point, I’m not even sure that’s a good thing.
Here are 6 gigantic, X Factor-sized problems producers need to solve immediately if they want the show to stop pissing off fans and start building a wider base of supporters.
Way Too Many PausesYou know how reality competitions love teasing who is about to go home and then saying, “You’ll find out after the break”? X Factor does that constantly. Even worse, the producers seem to have instructed the judges to take at least three minutes each when figuring out who to eliminate. They hem. They haw. They make all kinds of apologies to who they’re about to eliminate, even when the right decision couldn’t be more obvious. Sometimes one of the judges will even pull this bullshit when he or she is choosing between one of their own players and someone random.
Are you kidding? Honestly. We all know you’re going to choose the singer you’ve mentored for the entire season. Just vote to send the other contestant home and move the fuck on. The dramatic pause only works if the ending is in doubt.
Simon ProblemsSimon Cowell is the best reality competition judge in the history of the genre. He’s funny. He has a great sense of what types of performers will actually sell, and he knows when to be honest and heartfelt when giving critiques. A case could be made that he’s the single biggest reason singing competitions took off in America, but more than a decade after he started, he really needs to shake up the formula a little bit. He feels too inside his little zone, and as a result, even his odd little quips and bizarre comparisons don’t feel as biting.
Maybe Simon needs another industry type that’s even more honest then him, thus making him play a new role. Maybe he needs to go for less outlandish comments and start giving full on constructive criticism every time. Regardless, something needs to change because I know at least a dozen people who have stopped watching specifically because they’re sick of his Simon-ness.
Not Enough WeirdosBecoming a star in the music industry involves so much more than just having a nice voice. You need a personality. You need a genre. You need something that sets you apart. All too often music competitions fixate on the people who are the best singers or the people who are the best dancers. The truth is Hollywood is overflowing with people who can sing and dance. To make a real impact, you either need to be a weirdo that appeals to a specific fan base (like Adam Lambert) or you need to be otherworldly talented (like Carrie Underwood). The crowning of Alex & Sierra was a step in the right direction, but the truth is they really didn’t have much competition this season. No offense to Jeff Gutt, but there are hundreds of people out there who would have made great Night Ranger frontmen.
Producers need to start letting the judges see different types of people, and I’m not talking about older people or fatter people or sob stories with weird diseases. They need to let the judges start seeing people with voices and personalities distinctive enough to sound original.
Too Much Crammed Into Each EpisodeGod, how many times did we hear Mario Lopez say, “I need an answer now” this season. Thirty? Fifty? It’s like whoever made the schedule each week completely forgot to factor in that nothing ever runs as quickly as expected on live television. How could you not know this? Lopez is a consummate professional. He should be asked to kill a minute here or there when the show is running a little short. That’s what Ryan Seacrest does. I’m sure he could more than capably do it, but because he always has to be the time police and move everything along, he comes off like an annoying dick and the show comes off like it’s amateur hour. We don’t have to have a guest performance every week. We don’t have to put up cutesy little segments involving “Annoying Juice”. Less is more.
The timing problem has to be fixed because it’s agonizing to watch, and even though I know Lopez will shout at everyone until they move it along, I’m still convinced my DVR will cut off before I find out who went home.
Judges Without ChemistryWhy is this hard? Bring in a dozen possible choices and tape each one of them critiquing five contestants alongside Simon and whoever else you want to bring back. Then, pick the ones who actually play off each other well. Paulina was a black hole this season who brought nothing to the table and was never on the same page with the other judges. Kelly actually tried to stir the pot a little bit and have fun, but she never completely gelled with Demi or Simon. More famous is not necessarily the answer. We need people capable of making interesting comments and people who play well off one another.
I get that Britney Spears probably won’t agree to audition for X Factor, but I’m pretty sure a whole host of music’s most trend-setting producers and behind the scenes executives would love to do the show for a season. They would definitely audition, and even better, they would actually know what it takes to break into the modern day music scene.
Judges Don’t Disagree EnoughWhoever the judges are, they need to disagree. We got entire audition round episodes this season in which every single judge either all voted yes or all voted no for every single contestant shown. What is the fun in that? You know why Idol worked so well back in the day? Because Randy and Simon disagreed quite a bit. Paula would almost always say yes. Simon would almost always say no, and Randy would use his judgment to either give the person another chance or send them packing. So many contestants went home on two to one votes. Meanwhile, damn near every single person shown on Factor either breezes through or gets cut.
I don’t want to always know whether someone is going to get through. Beyond that, viewers would like to disagree with some of the judges every once in awhile. Can you believe _____ only got one vote and didn’t get through? That was shocking. I would love to be able to say that. Love it.