But let's face it, long ago, even before Season 1 of "The X Factor USA" debuted in Sept. 2011, there were signs that the show was headed in, shall we say, one direction: downward. What went wrong? Oh, lots of things. Here's a handy timeline:
photo: Access Hollywood
1. That time when Simon hired Paula Abdul. Longtime "American Idol" fans rejoiced when they learned that "Idol's" original buddy act would reunite on "The X Factor." But somehow, that old chemistry wasn't there anymore. And when Paula lost all of her contestants very early on in the live shows, it was clear that her involvement just wasn't going to work out.
2. That time when Cheryl Cole was fired after only two weeks. Cheryl was already a national treasure over in Britain, due to her tenure in pop group Girls Aloud and as a judge on "The X Factor U.K." And Simon reportedly lobbied hard to have her judge the U.S. version of the show. But after only a few audition tapings, she was unceremoniously sacked. Was it because producers were worried that her thick Geordie accent would be difficult to understand? Was it due to her rumored lack of camaraderie with Paula? Whatever the reason, her sudden firing indicated that even early on, there was chaos behind the scenes of this show.
3. That time when Simon hired host Steve Jones. Steve, a former underwear model, was easy on the eyes, but he sure had a hard time dealing with the pressures of live TV. He often seemed so concerned with preventing the show from running long and preempting "Bones" that he came across as utterly un-empathetic, almost autistically unable to get an emotional gauge on certain onstage situations. And on a show with many young, sensitive contestants who needed to be handled with care (more on that later), this quickly became an image problem.
5. That time when Fox bizarrely dissed "American Idol." Simon became a household name thanks to his nine seasons on "Idol," so when the first Fox promo for "The X Factor" aired in July 2011 and it was basically a 180-second "Idol" smear campaign, that seemed rather ungracious. And the fact that Fox, the same network that broadcasts "Idol," would allow such a spot to run just seemed ludicrous.
6. That time when Simon told The Hollywood Reporter that an audience of less than 20 million would be a "disappointment." Simon was never able to live this one down. "The X Factor's" series premiere only drew 13 million. And by Season 3, he would have been thrilled with 13 million, since the show's audience was now about half of that. Ouch.
photo: Us Weekly
8. That time when Melanie Amaro's album never came out. The Season 1 winner's debut disc, Truly, was initially slated for a Dec. 2012 release. Dec. came and went. Then it was supposed to come out in March 2013. It didn't. Now the album has been shelved indefinitely, probably permanently, after her two singles failed to chart. For a show based entirely on the premise of launching superstar careers, this was an inauspicious start.
11. That time when there was crying in baseball. It was never a good idea to try to schedule this show around the World Series. One night during the Judges' House rounds, a rained-out baseball game delayed, then suddenly interrupted, and then totally preempted, one the most important episodes of Season 2: the reveal of the top 16 contestants. Midway through the show came the announcement that the rest of the episode would instead air next Tuesday (up against "The Voice"). Meanwhile, the episode still aired in its entirety on Canada's CTV, making spoilers impossible to avoid. Season 2 never really recovered.
12. That time when L.A. Reid quit. Despite his impressive résumé as the co-founder of LaFace Records and chairman/CEO of the Island Def Jam Music Group, L.A. never brought much to "The X Factor" except a bad attitude. Most of the time he looked like he'd rather be sitting in a dentist's chair than behind the judging desk, and that showed in his rude interactions with both the contestants and his fellow judges. But anyway, while no one seemed to miss him after he quit at the end of Season 2, his decision did seem like an attempt to hop off a sinking ship.
13. That time when Tate Stevens's album totally tanked. Season 2's winner actually got to release an album, but it went largely unnoticed, stalling at number 18 on the Billboard album chart and selling only about 45,000 copies to date. Tate wasn't ever invited back to "The X Factor" to perform — something even Melanie Amaro got to do once.
15. That time when the contestants were forced to play the Hunger Games. In Season 3, with the Judges' House segment unexpectedly canceled, the top 40 singers faced a new round … the (cue ominous music) … FOUR-CHAIR CHALLENGE. The semifinalists performed on a scary X-shaped stage in front of an unruly crowd of egged-on spectators who seemed like they belonged in the audience at a UFC match, and it was basically the most un-fun game of musical chairs ever.
photo: Us Weekly
All is not lost for the "X Factor" franchise, however. Talented Season 3 winners Alex & Sierra are currently working with John Legend on their debut album, and Season 2 finalists Fifth Harmony are doing well, touring with Demi Lovato and partnering with Barbie. And of course, there's always "The X Factor U.K.," where Simon may find the next One Direction or Cher Lloyd when he returns to that show in the fall.
But when fall comes around, there will sadly be no "X Factor" for singing-show fanatics on this side of the pond. I guess they'll have to watch "The Voice" instead.
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