Fox's singing contest reemerged Tuesday night with a serious baseball hangover, drooping to just 4.9 million total viewers with a two-hour special, according to Nielsen.
True, Cowell's extravaganza has had to contend with several weeks of postseason baseball and World Series interruptions -- its most recent telecast before Tuesday was way back on Oct. 10 -- and the Tuesday slot is not its customary time period.
But so what? Those are lousy numbers, no matter what sort of excuse is made for them. And given that "X Factor" is one of TV's most expensive shows, that doesn't bode well for its future on the struggling Fox lineup. (No such worries in Cowell's native Britain, apparently, where "X Factor" looks headed for a three-year renewal on ITV, according to reports.)
NBC's rival songfest "The Voice" delivered 11.6 million Tuesday, part of the time in head-to-head competition with "X Factor." That's not all: "X Factor" lost not only to "NCIS" and "The Biggest Loser" -- it barely beat "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." A repeat of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." That hurts, people.
Among viewers ages 18 to 49, the demographic Fox is selling, "X Factor" lost a quarter of its audience compared with earlier this month.
Remember when Cowell bragged about how he was going to bag "American Idol"? Right.
But this isn't a one-episode problem. "X Factor" has been deflating for some time. So what's the problem?
After a rocky first season that ended with Cowell firing Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger as judges and basically starting over, the producers tried to ramp up the show-biz glitz and brought on Britney Spears, who lasted all of one harshly-reviewed season.
This time around, there's a lot of contrived suspense centered on "four-chair challenges," in which contestants who think they're safe might be scooped away at any minute. It's a lame attempt to inject some drama into proceedings that are supposedly about finding the best singer, not seeing who can survive the weirdest parliamentary challenges.
"X Factor's" real problem is that it's the weakest link. TV has a singing-show glut, and "X Factor" just doesn't have its act together the way "The Voice" does. In fact, it's making "American Idol" -- which itself changes judges the way Lady Gaga changes costumes -- look like a model of stability and good taste.
So Cowell might want to take a break from his busy schedule of endorsements and product placements and give some attention to, say, actually producing the show. While he still can.
What do you think of "X Factor"?
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