Unveiling ‘The X Factor’

After more than a year of foreshadowing, anticipation and just sheer hype, the nation found out what “The X Factor” actually was in the show’s two hour premiere Wednesday.

It’s “American Idol” with a different name.

Sure, the ages have broadened – and the first hour only showed people who’d be too young or too old to compete on “Idol.” And yes, there were some groups in addition to solo acts. And it’s true that eventually the judges will have to mentor their group of finalists – something “The Voice” stole from the British version of “X Factor” first.

But that wash of blue lights, the sped-up shots of thousands waiting to audition, the packaged pieces accompanying a handful of tryouts and especially that judges panel:

Simon Cowell, back on TV, alongside Paula Abdul. Then there’s L.A. Reid, made up to look like a tougher Randy Jackson and in there among them Cheryl Cole, an import whose life on the show will be shorter than the average auditioner – she only lasts in the L.A. auditions.

The bad thing about the “X Factor” is that Simon Cowell isn’t mean enough, Abdul isn’t loopy enough, and the British host Steve Jones is annoying every time he’s on the air. I’ve seen enough of Nicole Scherzinger as a judge on “The Sing Off” to know she won’t do much but make Abdul sound more sensible.

Like the latter seasons of “Idol,” too much of “X Factor” seems manufactured – processed, edited, cut together for maximum emotional impact, but without that kind of wide open feeling that earlier auditions used to have, with some quite some good, some quite terrible and others providing a conundrum – are they good enough to pass through? In each case, we’d hear all of them sing their peace. Not so any more. We’d never risk our audiences have their own reactions that aren’t predigested for them.

That the auditions take place in front of a full arena doesn’t add a lot. It only seems to make the judges talk less among themselves.

Maybe it will get better as the competition actually unfolds for the home audience to vote – performances and reactions can’t be edited in live shows. But so far it just seems like an out of season “Idol” with the surprise of one of those cable reruns of early seasons.

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