This season, "The Voice" and "The X Factor" both added new twists to their opening rounds. It appears, however, that the producers were attempting to fix problems that don't exist. They'd be wiser to think ahead to the live rounds.
"The Voice"For Season 3, the popular Battle Rounds -- a dramatic showdown of two singers on the same song -- have been followed by the Knockout Rounds. In this stage, the four celebrity coaches each pick two of their remaining contestants to face off. The singers get to choose the song but still get pre-show coaching. The coaches pick the winners, who then move on.
Perhaps this was added to give the singers one more chance to prove themselves before the live rounds. The change was facilitated by the increased number of contestants following the Blind Rounds: 16 on each team, compared to 12 in Season 2. Add the two "steals" the coaches were allowed during the Battle Rounds, and they entered the Knockout Rounds with 10 each.
The Knockout Rounds have proven to be fairly uneventful. In part, this is due to song choice; contestants selected the same staples performed on every reality singing competition. The coaches didn't provide nearly the same sort of intense coaching as in the Battle Rounds, meaning the singers have been sinking or swimming based on their talent alone.
This should prove a cautionary tale for the rest of the season: To keep the excitement alive, the coaches need to take a stronger lead when it comes to song choice and performance.
"The X Factor"In Season 2, "The X Factor" added a new dimension to the auditions: A version of the Battle Rounds -- presumably borrowed from "The Voice" -- was added to the Boot Camp stage, although the judges did not stick to a strict policy of eliminating one of the two contestants who faced off.
The other major change was the way the groups were divided. Whereas in Season 1, the categories were Groups, Girls, Boys, and Over 30s, this year's categories are Teens, Young Adults, Over 25s and Groups.
Presumably the change was made in order to reflect the makeup of this year's contestants, very few of whom are over 30. It may also even out the judges' chances of staying in the competition. Last year, the Groups category was so weak that judge Paul Abdul ran out of contestants weeks before the other judges. This year, under the tutelage of L.A. Reid (the music industry legend behind the success of Justin Bieber), they may stand a stronger chance.
So far this season, "The X Factor" has suffered from scheduling issues. Because of FOX's other obligations, a couple episodes were preempted due to coverage of a rain delay during the Major League Baseball playoffs. A presidential debate led to the program being shifted and truncated that week, and it's likely that a large portion of the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. will miss the first week of the Live Rounds due to Superstorm Sandy's after effects.
With that in mind, "The X Factor" should be sure to reintroduce viewers to all the contestants as they perform. They should also minimize the sniping between the judges that marred Season 1 and stole attention away from the contestants.
Hopefully, both shows will continue to work on improving.