Archive for January, 2012

XFactor Upheaval and Surprise

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

In XFactor USA‘s first off-season, Simon Cowell may be showing signs of a significant lack of confidence…it could also just be another sign of his genius.

Being second best is never good enough for Mr. Cowell and he’s officially turned XFactor USA upside down in order to close the gap with the king of sing, the number one rated, American Idol.  Some of these changes were expected, but there was one very big surprise in store as well.

Viewers had hoped for revenge on former judge Nicole Scherzinger for the frustration she caused and the tears she brought from favorite contestants, Rachel Crow and Drew Ryniewicz.  Nicole could have saved either of these popular girls, but her immaturity and cowardice forced early exits for these contestants, even against Simon Cowell’s wishes.  It seems that it was only a matter of time before Simon returned the favor.  Namaste, Nicole.

Not as impactful, despite his seemingly important role as the host of the show, Steve Jones will also be leaving XFactor.  This handsome and friendly guy didn’t add much to the production and certainly had very little X-Factor himself, but he did a competent job.  When you trail your competition by six million viewers, the theory is that if you don’t add something, you’re subtracting.  With this in mind, Steve got the axe.  This also makes Cowell the only Brit on the show with an authoritative accent to match.

Now the  big surprise.  Paula Abdul has just announced that she is also leaving XFactor behind.  She has given the impression that it was an amicable breakup, but a breakup nonetheless.  It will be sad to see Paula go as she really did make a good match for Simon.  They had some very warm and funny moments in between their usual squabbles and their old charm worked well to break up some very dry moments on the panel.  On paper, losing Paula looks to be Cowell’s riskiest move yet, but it shows that Simon understands something fundamental about the success of his show: He’s got to have the X-Factor on the panel if he’s ever going to make one on the stage.

Touch – A World of Possibilities

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

On Wednesday Fox debuted it’s new dramatic series Touch with an hour and seven minute long “Preview”. What this means, who knows, but Kiefer Sutherland’s back and he’s trying to make sure that he does his part to save the world…again.

Touch is the story of Martin Bohm (Kiefer Sutherland) who is the single father of a speechless, autistic young boy named Jake who just may have the key to salvation in the numerical way he sees the world.  Through a series of interlocking stories, this preview shows the incalculable ways each person’s actions affect everyone else.

Touch worked incredibly well in its dramatic television format.  This type of story has been attempted many times in a feature film format, but high pressure comes with a high budget and a film only has one chance to tell its story.  With story lines from Tokyo to Iraq and Dublin to New York, this was a debut whose total result was equal to much more than it’s parts. This would be a must watch series except for a couple of things.  Too bad one of those things is that the main characters were the least interesting part of the show.

By far the best part of this preview is that they used the kid and his numbers as the catalyst for an incredible mixing of characters and story lines. From the preview for the next episode (over a month from now!?), it’s clear that the show is going to ditch all of the side characters they developed in the preview for the next episode so we’ll just be left with Bohm and Son, Kiefer and kid.  What we’re being told by the creators of Touch is that instead of taking the time and putting in the effort of developing seven or eight interesting characters for the arc of the series, the plan is to make this an episodic effort which will be more mission than character based. One of the best shows of all time, L O S T, was so incredible because those writers made the effort and took the risk of giving their substantial character base the time to develop their individual and shared stories to the very end.  Touch isn’t committed to taking that risk and they’re going to leave the audience with a formula which will never recapture the promise this “Preview” had.  It’s a shame that such a huge and obvious investment in talent and time, with the world to work with, is going to develop the invented mystery of math instead of character.  Well, it was only a preview, we’ve still got a shot at being surprised when the show comes back…March 19th.

American Idol is Back and Lee DeWyze Eats Breakfast

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

American Idol Season 9 winner, Lee DeWyze graciously accepted a round of applause at legendary Chicago restaurant Lou Mitchell’s this morning.  This was a perfect reminder that with the new year comes a new season of TV’s biggest show.  American Idol is back!

2011 saw some stiff competition for Idol with The Voice and the top-talent filled, Simon Cowell hosted, XFactor USA.  Between these new singing competitions and another season of a Randy Jackson led judges panel, American Idol could find its ratings take a big slip.  While American Idol has produced some top-selling talent, it was XFactor which actually discovered and developed the best singing voice since the American Idol era with the incredibly talented Melanie Amaro.  From the very first audition, millions of viewers knew who would win that show.  XFactor was built on its huge production value and the diverse talent of its performers.  Huge stages with pyrotechnics and crews of dancers and backup singers filled the small screen every week. 

American Idol‘s huge value comes from being first.  They were the first big show of its kind since Star Search and it hasn’t looked back since its first season.  This isn’t to say that American Idol doesn’t have something to learn from XFactor and The Voice (probably not so much from The Voice though).  Idol can find itself being repetitive and very, very long.  It can take a long time to sift through the large group of competitors and Idol producers have clearly made the choice to trade off some amount of quality for a huge increase in the quantity of episodes they produce.  Now that the alternatives to American Idol are growing, people may start to fall off.  The only way to see for sure would be a head to head competition, but XFactor has just finished its run and American Idol doesn’t debut again until later this month.  Guess we don’t have to choose just yet…unless you choose not to watch at all.  We’ll find out soon enough, American Idol is back with a two-night debut January 18th and 19th.