Everyone’s a Critic: Juggling Judges

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Last week saw the highly anticipated debut of “X Factor,” the latest entry into the singing competition genre.

The two-hour premiere gave us talent, drama, tears… and five judges?!?

Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and L.A. Reid are filling three of the four judges’ chairs. The fourth seat was originally intended for U.K. singer Cheryl Cole. She was dropped during the show’s audition rounds and replaced by singer Nicole Scherzinger.

When this “scandal” (and I use those quotes as liberally as I can) went down over the summer, it was kind of a big deal. “X Factor” was being pumped as a mega show, a potential competitor/successor to “American Idol.” The fact that it had struggles out of the gate might have been an ominous sign.

In the months between the judging switch and the actual premiere of the show, however, memories of the issue faded. Promotions for the show featured Scherzinger, Cole was mentioned less, and it seemed like everyone had moved on.

That is, until the premiere last Wednesday. In the first “meet your judges” segment, there was Cole. She was given the full introduction treatment just like Cowell, Abdul and Reid, and she was sitting on the judging panel for the Los Angeles auditions, which lasted around one hour.

But when the show moved to Seattle for the second half of the premiere, Cole was swapped out with Scherzinger, who was given the same full introduction treatment and her seat on the judging panel.

When Cole was dropped as a judge, there were all sorts of rumors about why it might have happened. Her accent was too thick for American audiences. (I didn’t think so.) She didn’t mesh well with the other judges. (Who cares?) Producers thought she would be more comfortable doing the U.K. version. (Whatever.)

The point is, the “scandal” was months ago! Why was the show, of all media, bringing this back up, even inadvertently?

This has nothing to do with the individual merits of Cole or Scherzinger as judges. I thought they were both fine. But reading about the switch-out and seeing it happen on TV are very different.

If Cole had been a judge through ALL of the auditions, fine. I could understand that you wouldn’t be able to avoid showing her involvement.

Let’s say the L.A. auditions featured an inordinate amount of talent and the show just couldn’t bear to skip those auditions. You know how everyone complains about “creative editing” in reality shows? This would have been the time to use it!

But you’re telling me that producers never considered a solution better than “well, we’ll just brush it aside and hope the audience doesn’t notice”?

There’s nothing wrong with “X Factor” when it features Nicole Scherzinger. There was nothing wrong with “X Factor” when it featured Cheryl Cole. But the fact that the show brought the change back up after it was long forgotten triggers reminders that there MIGHT have been something wrong. And producers have to hope that first impression isn’t a lasting one.


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