Courtesy of FOX
The second season of “The X Factor” premiered Wednesday night, but for all intents and purposes, it might as well have been the first. After all, it was probably the first time most people tuned in, and understandably so - with all the talent competition shows bombarding the airwaves (“American Idol,” “The Voice,” “America’s Got Talent,” the list goes on and on), is it really possible for any one of them to be better than the rest? That question might have been answered last night, as “The X Factor” proved that it’s not necessarily the talent from the contestants that matters – it’s the appeal of the judges.
Season 1 of “The X Factor” was a dud because of the lineup of thoroughly uninteresting judges – Paula Abdul and show creator Simon Cowell couldn’t rekindle their feisty “American Idol” chemistry, and singers Nicole Scherzinger and Cheryl Cole were only put in the judge’s seats to draw viewers in by being young and attractive.
But oh, how things have changed. Cowell has rolled out the big guns for Season 2 by bringing back talent guru L.A. Reid and recruiting former Disney star Demi Lovato. But the powerhouse of them all is pop princess Britney Spears, who made a surprisingly entertaining debut last night. Last we heard from Spears, she had made a mildly convincing comeback after a grueling string of tabloid disasters and controversies (K-Fed! Rehab! Baldness!). But if last night was any indication, “The X Factor” will help Spears redeem her tarnished reputation and maybe even steal back her throne as America’s sweetheart.
Last night’s first part of a two-episode premiere took us to auditions in Austin, Texas, San Francisco and Providence, R.I. There were a few standout performances, such as 21-year-old single mother Paige Thomas, 18-year-old firecracker Jennel Garcia and a trio of Los Angeles teenage boys who called themselves Emblem 3. Then there was the typical slew of train wrecks, such as 50-year-old Shawn Armenta, who was so creepy that he probably haunted the dreams of every female viewer in the country who tuned into the premiere.
But none of those performers garnered the attention that the judges received. Spears and Lovato were the stars of the show, and the most surprising part of it all is they actually delivered. Lovato was sweet and charismatic and Spears proved that she’s “not that innocent” by delivering amusingly mean lines such as “I want to know who let you on stage. I feel uncomfortable with you even staring at me” (directed toward Armenta, of course). Cowell, known for being a notoriously mean judge, didn’t seem to mind that Spears may have stolen his thunder – he’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.