Last Summer, most everyone that works in the TV biz and active fans of the medium were expecting FOX to have another “death star” on their hands with X Factor. Idol had just beaten the odds, shook up the judges panel after Simon Cowell’s departure, and came out ahead and was still the #1 show on TV by far. Most assumed that the biggest star of the show was Simon, so here he was reuniting with another former Idol judge (and one he had chemistry with), Paula Abdul, in a new bigger, more ostentatious, more obnoxious version of his former home.
FOX mounted a huge campaign and make no mistake, ego was front and center, from the corporate jets the judges emerged from to the mocking of the “kinder” music competition shows, this show had “balls”. That was the message. But a few months earlier The Voice showed up and put a new, fresher spin on music competitions and contained some new elements that were to be so “revolutionary” when they appeared on X Factor.
I think the fact that a) another hit singing competition had inserted itself between Idol and X and b) the fact that X was premiering the same time as all the hit scripted shows were returning after 4 months (unlike when IDOL premieres in Jan and is the new exciting kid on the block) may have diminished X Factor’s luster at the outset. But also, maybe all of us just assumed Simon was the primary reason people were still so enamored of Idol. Also, X Factor was hardly that unique, despite Simon’s consternation otherwise. It was basically a fall edition of Idol, albeit one with lots more ego. X Factor did a lot to help FOXs fall, there is no denying it made them #1 for the first time ever in the fall. But X Factor’s finale did slightly less than DWTS’s fall finale and that show was having its lowest season to date. Many pundits and FOX were saying “yeah but IDOL grew from 1st season to 2nd, and the same will likely happen here”. That’s really faulty logic to me, as IDOL was a complete unknown when it premiered in summer ’02 (and summer has much lower viewing levels), plus this genre was a novel concept. It was the first show of its kind and 10 years later we’ve had many. This was not a new series, it was, as I mentioned, basically a fall edition of Idol.
In the time between when X finished on December 22nd and when it returns this fall, Idol will have had a complete season, The Voice will have completed its 2nd, much larger season and there are new music competition shows on ABC and CW this Summer. The Voice’s 3rd season will be premiering before X Factor returns. It just makes me think it will be even less special when it comes back. There is already music competition fatigue as The Voice has trended down in the last 2 months. Come fall, I expect viewers to be more excited about their favorite scripted shows not seen since May returning, (and some much publicized new shows,) than another iteration of a singing competition that will have had no rest from the airwaves.
Rumors that Britney Spears is joining the panel doesn’t make me think it will suddenly blow up. Signing big names doesn’t make a show resonate. People have to connect with the personalities and if X Factor proved anything it was that even the biggest stars of the medium weren’t enough to lure them to the TV in droves.
I can conceivably see where X Factor will still get 3’s, which again is far better than what FOX usually got in the fall. But it’s hardly a juggernaut and even Idol, which is still one of the most popular shows on TV, is not the “death star” it once was. It is regularly beaten by The Big Bang Theory. If Idol can be programmed against now, most certainly, X Factor is not something to be feared of.
Fox will complete their new judging panel soon, and I’m sure there will be a mammoth campaign including Simon saying how much better it is, etc. The thing is when Simon says “we’re looking for a star”, it’s hardly novel. 4 shows this year alone will have been searching for the same thing.
I think CBS, NBC, and ABC should make their fall schedules with no worry that it shouldn’t put promising new shows opposite it. CBS and ABC will likely have most of their Wednesday lineups intact, but NBC shouldn’t fear scheduling well-loved new shows against it on Wed or Thu. CBS will likely move TBBT to Thu 9p, but I expect them to move either Two & A Half Men or How I Met Your Mother to Thu 8p with a new comedy to follow. ABC will likely have something new on Thu at 8p and they should not fear putting Last Resort, 666 Park Avenue or Nashville or any other promising new show, Thu at 8p. Especially if CBS moves TBBT to 9p, Thu at 8p is a timeslot that a great new show should have an easier time breaking out this fall, than it was this spring.