Part two of The X Factor premiere aired on Thursday night and began with an example of the show's biggest problem: It's wildly over-produced.
The entire opening credits segment is a ridiculous montage reminiscent of a low-budget science fiction film meets a Sesame Street letter "X" lesson. But that opening segment also gives clues to the cause; The X Factor has six, yes six, executive producers and two co-executive producers. Perhaps over-production is really just an elaborate scheme for job security?
Well, if job security is what the show's producers are after, then they still can't rest easy even though the addition of Demi Lovato and Britney Spears continued to charm into Day Two of the premiere. That means viewers have tolerated the two female pop stars for about 2 hours and 15 minutes, which is exactly 2 hours and 14 minutes longer than any of us dared to hope for. And if the producers insist on grossly manipulating every last shred of reality out of the show, the least they could do is attempt to conceal their influence – although that may be counter-productive to their efforts to prove that each and every one of them is very busy, thank you very much.
Interestingly, it seems like the only two people who have managed to avoid the ugly grip of the show's over-production are Demi and Britney (although in my opinion, Britney's make-up artists could use a dose of over-production stat – her face looks like it just needs a good wash which is probably not the look they were going for). But dirty-face or not, Britney continued to dominate air time, while also continuing her odd tendency to show as many teeth as possible in every facial expression.
The first stop in The X-Factor tour Thursday was San Francisco, where contestants were herded into Cow Palace to sing for Simon Cowell as he continued to chew his cud from last night. It was in San Francisco that cameramen somehow caught a rare, unscripted moment between contestant Johnny Maxwell and his mother. In their car. 2.5 hours prior to the audition. As she told him, "This is the performance of a lifetime, remember - not an audition," in full theater make-up, without a touch of irony. Johnny took to the stage and performed an original song that resulted in an influx of hyperbole from the judges in an attempt to convince viewers that a backwards cap and a catchy hook are enough to compensate for the fact that Johnny can barely hold a tune. Perhaps he would have had better pitch if he wasn't gasping for air throughout his entire audition? After getting four yeses, he was moved into the next round.
Another San Fransisco auditioner, Jason Brock was eager to give Britney her fill of talent and the 34-year-old Tech Support Operator didn't just look like a cross between Elton John and Adam Lambert, but he also possessed some of their talent. His performance of "New York State of Mind," was enough to earn him a standing ovation from judges, a gesture that has yet to completely recover from the debasement inflicted upon it by last season's American Idol judges.
Lest you suspect that San Francisco was all rainbows and butterflies, it was not without its share of heartbreak. Enter Patrick Ford, a 20-year-old cashier who was desperately in love with Britney but seemingly untroubled by his suspicions that she may actually be his sister. Patrick's unsettling audition consisted of a horrific performance of "Circus," several professions of love for Britney and a dozen red roses. But what did Britney do? She played with his heart. Got lost in the game.
She's not that innocent.
Which is precisely what 13-year-old Carly Rose Sonenclar was out to prove when she sang the Nina Simone version of "Feelin' Good." Carly was the first contestant whose voice actually warranted the hype and manufactured excitement that viewers were being force-fed like geese. (Even viewers in Chicago haven't been able to escape the gavage.) Carly also received a standing ovation from the judges, with a voice so beyond her years that L.A. Reid used three of his 30-second per episode allotment of screen time to exclaim, "Honey you may be 13, but your soul is old."
Surprisingly, the audience didn't seem to hold that against it.
So let us end on a high note, which, in spite some of my scathing observations, is what I felt the show managed to do this week. What did you think? Are Demi and Britney a good fit? Have they already outperformed other celebrity judges like Stevn Tyler and Jennifer Lopez? Share your comments below.