'The X Factor' recap: It's down to 12
In a show that at times sounded like an overproduced amateur hour (Simon Cowell's two questionable picks) and at other times like something out of "Jerry Springer" (those judges are bound and determined to cook up some bad blood between them), "The X Factor" burst into its new "live" format Tuesday night.
It was one weirdly paced 2½ hours of TV, but at the end of the day, after each chunk of singers sang, we were left with 12 more-or-less deserving finalists waved through to next week's shows by the judge/mentors. (For those of you planning to return to see how things progress next week, the finalists will perform live on Wednesday, Nov. 2, with the first voting results revealed the following night.)
We were also left with a sort of strange taste in our mouths (at least I was), and a lingering question about just how much more of Simon Cowell the American TV audience will tolerate.
Other questions that spring to mind:
How much do you think Ryan Seacrest is secretly paying host Steve Jones to make him look so good? I'd always thought of "American Idol" host Seacrest as a sort of a stiff until Jones came along. Jones seemed even more out of his element than ever hosting the live show, where it fell to him to simultaneously keep things moving by pretending the dramatic stuff (e.g., an eliminated contestant expressing regret for disappointing a judge/mentor) was unexciting while periodically slowing down the action to read canned copy -- er, exciting announcements! -- about the show's corporate sponsors from a teleprompter. It was alarming when he barked at the judges about being pressed for time as they tried in vain to comfort the contestants whose hearts they'd just broken. Maybe the Welsh accent made it sound extra harsh? On the other hand, I'm pretty sure he made it through the whole show without mispronouncing a U.S. locale. (Was he called upon to pronounce any at all?) So at least there was that.
How thankful are we for L.A. Reid? Tasteful, composed and professional, Reid has emerged as a true voice of reason, though he's not above allowing himself to gush over an artist who transports him. Sure, he didn't always make the perfect song choices for his mentees. (Poor Phillip Lomax deserved better than that cheesy Monkees song). And some of his quips fall flat. (He really felt he had to explain his "everything but the kitchen sink" reference?) But when he called Cowell onto the carpet for his completely wacko contestant choices -- "You must really be rich, because $5 million clearly doesn't mean much to you" -- I really wanted to hug the guy.
Also, how relieved are we that Cowell (finally) sent home the two "girl" contestants who shouldn't have made the live shows in the first place and kept the three who'd rightly earned their slots? Moreover, how ticked would we have been if he had not?
Which brings us to the who-made-it, who-didn't breakdown.
In: Astro (the artist formerly known as Brian "Stop Looking at My Mom" Bradley), Chris Rene, Marcus Canby
Out: Phillip Lomax
My take: Rene didn't give his best performance, but it didn't matter. It was inevitable that "Crooner" Lomax would be the one sent home. A flashy smile and dimples can take you only so far.
In: The Stereo Hogzz, InTENsity, Lakoda Rayne
Out: The Brewer Boys
My take: It's still hard to feel much connection with any of these groups. (OK, maybe a little with the Stereo Hogzz.) You could argue that the Brewer brothers were among the more original, even if they were a little slack.
In: Stacy Francis, LeRoy Bell, Josh Krajcik
Out: Dexter Haygood
My take: It was high time for Haygood to go home. Love the other three. Krajcik really could win the whole thing.
In: Drew (Was it Cowell's idea for her to ditch her last name?), Rachel Crow, Melanie Amaro
Out: Tiah Tolliver, Simone Battle
My take: Phew! I'm not the least bit sorry to see the backs of pitch-challenged Tolliver (who at least had the poise to thank the judges for their feedback) or delusional Battle (who brazenly used her kiss-off to promote her new music video). Can we ever forgive Simon for picking either of them over Tora Woloshin or Caitlin Koch? Not sure. But as long as Drew and Amaro stick around, the show is worth watching.
What did you think of the show and the judges' selections?
-- Amy Reiter
Photo: Tiah Tolliver performs for what should be the last time on "The X Factor" on Tuesday night. Credit: Ray Mickshaw / Fox