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X Factor’ sappy but appealing to music aficionados

Judges L.A. Reid, Nicole Scherzinger (who replaced Cheryl Cole), Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell in 'The X Factor,' premiering tonight at 8 p.m. on Fox.

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On its surface, “The X Factor” doesn’t seem much different from a lot of TV’s other music competitions.

But once you get down to it, the series premiere of “The X Factor” strips away some of the silliness of those “American Idol” audition episodes and gets right down to the music.

That’s not to say “The X Factor” won’t feature some of the worst-of-the-worst in its first couple episodes, as it does. In fact, we see one contestant who could almost single-handedly have the show’s title changed to “The X-Rated.” We also see a flamboyant male diva who compares himself to Beyoncé but without the ugly husband.

Structurally speaking, “The X Factor” isn’t all that different from “American Idol.” In fact, it almost feels like a mashup of “Idol” and “America’s Got Talent.”

Contestants perform in front of four judges: Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, record exec L.A. Reid and British musician Cheryl Cole (who’s replaced by Pussycat Dolls frontwoman Nicole Scherzinger in episode two). Contestants must get a majority vote from the judges to move on, but unlike the “American Idol” auditions, contestants audition onstage in an arena in front of a crowd.

Contestants are divided into four categories: boys, girls, the “over 30s” and groups. We don’t see many of the latter two, though one particular “over 30” act delivers one of the most moving and inspirational performances I’ve seen in shows of this nature.

That performance, as well as several others — including one from a 12-year-old that’s sure to go viral — is what makes “The X Factor” just different enough from the competition to separate itself. It’s focused more on talent than the idea of laughing at bad contestants, and it’s never shy about getting sappy.

So, a word of advice: If you get emotional easily, you may want to have a box of Kleenex nearby.

“The X Factor” isn’t a radical departure from other shows of its ilk, but for music aficionados, it might be more enjoyable from the onset than, say, “American Idol.”

“The X Factor” series premiere bows tonight at 8 p.m. on Fox. The second episode is scheduled to air Thursday, also at 8 p.m.

Grade: A-

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