Let’s face it: If Simon Cowell didn’t say “less than 20 million” viewers watching the premiere of The X Factor in the U.S. would be “a failure” — a lot of people wouldn’t think the show had flopped. Instead, all everyone was talking about when the ratings came out on Thursday was how The X Factor didn’t live up to the hype — and how the show wasn’t Idolesque.
But did The X Factor really bomb?
I talked to some of my media friends to give me some insight on what happened this week — and it’s pretty clear to everyone what went down. If I was running for political office, I would steer clear of Simon Cowell to run my PR — this week proved that he’s the worst person to hire when it comes to managing expectations.
Joseph Kapsch from The Hollywood Reporter said “Simon set the bar so high very publicly” and the media perception was that the show failed specially when compared to American Idol, Simon’s former show.
Richard Rushfield who writes for the Daily Beast pointed out that Simon Cowell had not launched a show in a long time in the U.S. Meanwhile, the American audience has seen a barrage of reality shows like America’s Got Talent, The Voice and The Sing-Off through the years — so a show like The X Factor was not revolutionary. 20 million was “crazy to predict” he added. In fact, I don’t remember any show making a series debut at 20 million recently. Simon’s ego got the better of him this time.
The X Factor logged a 4.2 adults on Wednesday and 4.3 adults on Thursday. Lyndsey Parker from Yahoo Music said “These ratings are not failure ratings.” She noted that on Tuesday when FOX’s “New Girl” beat rating powerhouse “Glee” with a 4.7 rating and 10 million viewers, everyone called it a “hit” — but when X Factor produced 4.2 and 12 million viewers, it was a “flop.” Perception, perception!
And the comparison to American Idol was also unbalanced — even as Simon himself wanted us to do so. Idol premiered in the Summer of 2002 with no competition. X Factor premiered during a very competitive Fall 2012 season. In particular – Modern Family was coming off huge Emmy wins over the weekend. FOX was actually breaking records for the Fall with the X Factor in terms of ratings, but no one cared to notice because everyone expected it to have American Idol numbers.
Though all the experts I talked to said that they don’t know how the show will perform in the ratings over the next few weeks — they were quite optimistic that the show’s ratings will get better. Jarett Wieselman, editor of the Insider, said “The show is new and it will take a while to catch on. Once the X Factor has finalists, the numbers will rise.”
As far as the quality of the show, they were happy with The X Factor so far. Joseph loved the production value and the use of Top 40 music in the audition packages. Richard thought it was fun and zipped along. “It’s more produced than Idol,” he said. Jarett loved that Paula Abdul and Simon were back together again.
They all agreed with me that the auditions were so much better than other reality singing shows we’ve seen before. I loved that at the end, we get to see moments unique to every contestant, like Stacy Francis pushing her baby stroller to go home after winning over the judges and audience. And instead of every audition ending with “I’m going to Hollywood” like on Idol — the contestants “go to Heaven” in a freeze frame inside the glowing X Factor confessional box.
Surprisingly, the complaints were common: Cheryl Cole should have been given a chance to judge the full season – as she was good during the one audition show she was in. And last Thursday’s show was full of bad auditions, it might leave a bad impression on the audience. Jarett pointed out that after 4 hours of programming, there was only a handful of memorable talent. Lyndsey however reminded me that this year, American Idol had one of the worst audition episodes ever when the show visited Los Angeles. It was able to rebound from that, so maybe X Factor will too.
Thanks to Joseph, Richard, Lyndsey and Jarett for chatting with me. I think it’s going to be an amazing season of The X Factor!