Thursday, December 20, 2012

X Factor Jumped the Shark, Turned Around and Ate It

I am taking a little departure from the usual sports talk to touch on another subject. That subject would be my "not-so-guilty pleasure" X-Factor, on Fox.

I detest music shows for two reasons. One, I'm not musical. I don't sing, and I cannot play any instruments. The most "musical" I get would be listening to the radio, or my i-Pod. Secondly, they typically bore  me to death. This second season of X-Factor seemed to click, though. Whether it was the back stories of the singers competing,  the collective talent of this year's batch, or the mystery of Demi Lovato's involvement as a judge and her atrocious style- something compelled me to tune in each week.

Now at first I looked forward to this show being on two nights in a row every week. But somewhere along the way after auditions ended, they went to the judges' houses  and then the weekly competition began, Thursday felt like a chore. They performed their hearts out every Wednesday, and by Thursday they filled the two hours with recaps, rankings, and Mario Lopez getting creeped out by "Mr. Entertainment" Jason Brock's not-so-subtle sexual harassing. Thursdays dragged on so badly, I wouldn't have doubted had they tried to fill an hour with secret cameras filming Khloe Kardashian's latest on-phone fight with husband/Los Angeles Clipper Lamar Odom. I think an hour of Mario Lopez giving me manscaping tips might have been more productive than  "Filler Thursday".

Now  I am no American Idol pro-  I only caught the horrendous auditions to laugh at. But it does seem like the whole competition's purpose from what I learned was a to be a process to help develop the winner and prepare them to adjust to a whole new life. They sang for weeks, they won, and then the real production started: make-up, wardrobe, big stage antics, back up singers and dancers, etc. There was a clear separation between the competition and the eventual winner's career. They "earned" the big time treatment to a certain degree.

The X-factor's main separation from Cowell's Idol was its overproduction. Few times, it really added to performances. Other times the big production engulfed most performances. If a performer transcended the highly distracting theatrics then I felt they were truly ready to advance and have a shot to win. If the gimmicks ended up more as an obstacle for the singer than a buttress, then they had no business going any further.  I'm looking at you, Paige Thomas. Coming down from the rafters in a dress that blew in her face while wearing what looked to be a metal version of Jesus' crown of thorns caused me to laugh at someone I had previously pulled for. The difference between Paige and Jesus (other than the fact that she didn't die for our sins or perform any actual miracles) is that she wasn't persecuted- the audience was. Other singers such as Arin Ray seemed to shrink as well. It didn't help that the kid couldn't sing  and relied on some fictitious "swag" the judges talked about during his regretfully long run.

A lot of these gaffes can also be blamed on the judges. They picked the songs, the outfits, the sets and more. I mean was it really a good idea for Britney to have Arin Ray sing "I Can Be Your Hero" by Enrique his brother? I'd love to tell you why it seemed so out of place, but instead I'll just show you some of the lyrics, which once again- were sung by a sixteen year old male to his older brother on national TV:

"Hold me in your arms, tonight . I can be your hero, baby I can kiss away the pain I will stand by you forever. You can take my breath away."

Hashtag AWKWARD. Singing  the Foo Fighter's "Hero" would have been exponentially more appropriate.

This all brings me to Wednesday's second-to-last-episode. Three finalists remained: Tate Stevens, 5th Harmony, and Carly Rose Sonnenclair. Stevens is the thirty-seven year old country singer with a wife, kids and road paving job whose got "one last chance" to make it in the business. 5th Harmony is a group of five super emotional teenage girls who cry at the drop of the hat and likely cry more than five Lindsay Lohans at the bar after a day in court. Carly Rose is a thirteen year old powerhouse of a singer with a voice beyond her years. At this point, I'd pick her to be the frontrunner.

Each finalist had two solo songs, then teamed up with an actual singer for another (in Tate's case, a band).  After each of the trio of remaining finalists had  their opening performance, judges offered pleasantries and repeated things they had said all season long. I can easily see Spears, L.A. Reid and Lovato looking down at a piece of paper:

Demi: (for females) "OMG, you were SO amazing. I am in love with you. You have so much confidence and are so adorable/sexy when you sing."

Demi: (for males) "You ROCKED it, tonight. You are so hawt! That's all I have to say." (bats eyelashes 8,000 times)

Reid: "I really want to say something bad about your performance, but I don't want to damage you unrepairably: good job."

Spears: "How much am I getting paid, Simon?" (random bewildered face/sympathetic sad face- pick one)

Tonight's change included showing all the hometowns of the finalists, as a way to further motivate them to NOT EVER GO BACK THERE AGAIN. Also current data reveals the three locations (San Antonio, TX, Belton, MO and Westchester County, NY) have lost any hope of increased tourism due to the creepy nature of the supporters. "TateNation" as it was dubbed in Belton included my favorite supporter of the night. I forget  what she said her name was, but the middle aged Stevens supporter  had the look in her eyes of one possessed by a demon mixed with that of a starving lion eying a large, healthy elephant. She proclaimed her love and support of Stevens, then also informed the whole country of the fact that she named her pet "Tate-R-Tot". Based off her appearance, I'm sure its former name was "What's-A-Salad?".

Then for  a reason unbeknownst to me, San Antonio was chosen to be the support city for 5th Harmony. It was the city for one of the five girls, none of which I can name. How was this decided? Did they draw straws? Arm wrestle? Battle rap? Closest to the pin on a golf course? I need to know this. (It also must be said that the image of the San Antonio crowd looked like they panned from above the in-studio crowd and lied to the television audience, calling the alternate view San Antonio.) These girls throughout the season have perfected the "holy sh*t"  moment every time the judges or hosts tell them they have stayed in the competition. Wait, scratch that. 5th Harmony reacts that way when anyone tells them ANYTHING.

Mario Lopez: "5th Harmony, you are NOT the father."

(5th Harmony proceeds to cry, embrace each other, cry some more, projectile vomit out of pure happiness, and shoot lasers out of their eyes while they hug Lopez so hard he explodes. The judges look on aghast, and at some point Spears dials 911.)

Lastly they showed Westchester County, NY- home of Carly Rose, America's new itty bitty sweetheart. The mayor grabs the mic and screams into it (was I the only one weirded out by his awkward enthusiasm?)  as some random woman stands next to him with a tray of 5 million mini cupcakes which no one ever explained the meaning of. He proclaims 12/19 as Carly Rose Sonnenclair day. Because any time a barely teenage girl sings phenomenally well in a singing competition, you have to name a day of the year after them. It's in the bible. Look it up.  Then as he continues what is his life's shining moment, they cut him off and go back to the studio. Loved that part.

In the end, they wrapped up the show by showing all three cities again, which I could have done without. They hyped up Thursday's finale which will include the winner being announced. Throughout the season, Fox milked X-Factor for ratings with its four hours a week trying to make up for any shortcomings by "doing it big" with its theatrics. In the end, though, most acts were over-X-posed and proved that the production seemed out of place.

Thursday, X-Factor names a new winner.  After all of the over-the-top glitz and glamor from the show, I'm ready for the finale. Similar to the former Arizona Cardinals' coach Dennis Green press conference after a loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football, X-Factor was what we thought it was. Go ahead, America. Crown Carly Rose and be done with it. Let me off the hook.

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