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'The X Factor': Is it refreshing or is it way too much?

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Last night’s two-and-a-half-hour X Factor – a.k.a. American Idol on Steroids, a.k.a. Simon Cowell Must Think We’re REALLY Stupid – was a big ol’ trainwreck full of flashy lights, over-produced backing tracks, faux-bickering by the judges, rushed eliminations, and the list goes on. Reading over the comments on my recap of the telecast and Adam B. Vary’s hilarious on-the-scene report, it seems people are torn between liking the rawther British, unsentimental, over-the-top gaudiness of the show, and loathing it.

I can see both sides, and in my recap I said that The X Factor’s quick pace and unsentimental approach was a refreshing change from American Idol. I miss Idol too, but this is a different show. Simon is clearly aiming for pure spectacle here, and if the U.S. X Factor is supposed to be as campy-bordering-on-idiotic as the British version or something like America’s Got Talent, then mission accomplished. But if it’s supposed to be a singing competition, it’s largely a joke. The question is, are we willing to let it be what it is and have some escapist fun, or does Simon’s idea of fun make us want to throw ourselves off a cliff?

Let’s break down some elements of the show you could either love or loathe…

THE HOST
Love: Steve Jones is cute, keeps things moving. He’s so tall!
Loathe: Steve Jones showed little personality and needs to find suits that fit him. He’s so tall!

THE BACKUP DANCERS
Love: Um, they’re hilarious?
Loathe: They completely distract from whatever vocal talent we’re supposed to extract from the contestants.

THE JUDGES’ FAUX-BICKERING
Love: I suppose if I’d followed the British version, I’d understand and respect that this is an integral part of the series, since it is in part a competition among the judges. It’s clearly important to Simon.
Loathe: It’s so clearly over-the-top and orchestrated that it just seems like a waste of time, and it suggests the judges are the main characters here instead of the talent. Nicole Scherzinger’s phoniness in particular is just awful.

THE XANADOME SET
Love: The faces on the jumbotrons are funny, especially when Paula happens to be talking. Don’t take everything so seriously. Light up your life.
Loathe: The terrifying laser fields during performances are ridiculous. Isn’t this supposed to be loosely based on singing? I HAVE A HEADACHE.

THE TALENT
Love: “Acts” like Drew, Josh Krajcik, Melanie Amaro, and LeRoy Bell delivered pared-down, inspiring performances that would be deservedly praised on any other singing competition show.
Loathe: That the contestants are referred to as “acts” in general. “Astro” is obnoxious. Overwhelming backing tracks drown out singers like Stacy Francis and render groups like Lakoda Rayne or InTENsity nearly impossible to hear.

Are you willing to sit back and let Simon Cowell take you on wild laser ride, or have you had it with The X Factor’s over-the-top vibe already?

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Read more:
‘The X Factor recap’:  The Fakers’ Dozen
‘X Factor’ ratings jump for first live show
‘The X Factor’: Simon Cowell on ‘my big mouth,’ and all four judges on their on-screen bickering

Originally posted October 26 2011 — 6:28 PM EDT

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