On the surface, Britney Spears’ hiring seems like a predictably desperate move made by a desperate show that’s desperately in need of higher ratings to justify its bloated budget. As such, there are dozens of reasons why I should roll my eyes and be cynical about The X Factor shelling out for the “Lucky” singer and to a lesser extent, Demi Lovato, but actually, I couldn’t be more on board. To understand why though, you have to understand the incredibly bizarre and specific way in which The X Factor found itself drowning in mediocrity during its first season.
Most average shows are average in almost every respect. The writing is okay. The format is okay. The acting is okay. The production values, the editing, the camera work, the hosting, all of it is remarkably pedestrian. Thus, in order to get better quickly, a whole lot of shit has to fundamentally change. Fortunately for The X Factor, nothing about its first season was average at all. It was a strange mix of beauty and putrescence. The edited content and sleekness were A-pluses. The basic format was a proven winner in Europe. Simon Cowell and LA Reid were both the perfect mix of tough and fair. The contestants were actually very talented, far more so than The Voice’s participants, and the crowd was just the right amount of vocal. All of those elements should have combined together to create something wonderful.
But sadly, everything else wasn’t mediocre, it was downright awful. Almost immediately after filming the first episode, Cheryl Cole was fired. To compensate, producers brought in Nicole Scherzinger who famously refused to vote on which contestant to send home. Host Steve Jones tried his damndest to transition between the judges and the contestants, but all too often, he came off as too insensitive and completely out of his element. He often failed to keep the show running on time, and some of the contrived banter between the judges was abysmal and felt scripted.
All of this brilliance and awkwardness combined together to alienate a lot of viewers. Many tried to get on board at various points, but the failures were just too noticeable for them to continue. Others, like myself, saw the areas of promise and hoped against hope something would eventually change.
Britney Spears is that change, or at least, she’s the promise of that change. She’s a big enough personality to draw viewers back in, and with Demi Lovato by her side, all of those negatives could wind up being positives. That’s the best case scenario, but even if Spears winds up being remarkably average, her presence, coupled with the other news faces, should be at least average, producing a net win in overall quality.
The X Factor needed to hit the reset button. In order to do that, it needed someone huge, someone capable of convincing fans to curiously tune in one more time. Britney will do that. Now it’s just up to Simon to fix the other problems.