The confirmation on Thursday (January 10) that Britney Spears is leaving the “X Factor” came as no surprise to anyone who followed the show’s second season.
While it garnered lots of initial hype, the marriage never really worked and things fizzled almost immediately once the live shows hit the air. With both Spears and label legend L.A. Reid taking their leave, show creator Simon Cowell is once again faced with revamping half of the judge’s panel before the upcoming third season.
MTV News asked experts what the split means for the show’s future, as well as Spears’ career.
“As far as judges, I thought the ‘Factor’ panel was pretty good, it’s just that Simon and Reid are good, [Demi] Lovato was great and Britney didn’t add much,” said Richard Rushfield, Los Angeles bureau chief for Buzzfeed. “She didn’t revolutionize the show and both ‘American Idol’ and ‘Factor’ were down 20 percent in their last seasons, so you can’t keep falling that much before you have to stabilize and turn things around at some point.”
Longtime reality TV blogger MJ Santilli said the Spears calamity is the latest black mark on a show that has had trouble finding its footing since Cowell transplanted the hit UK version two years ago.
Rushfield said the increasingly crowded field of reality talent competitions stacked with big-name judges — from “Idol” and “Factor” to “The Voice” and “America’s Got Talent” — has made it harder for “Factor” to break through. “The jury has come in on stunt casting and it doesn’t work,” he said just days before “Idol” attempts to get its groove back with new judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj. “It offers a temporary bump at first, but after that it wears off and it’s a matter of having to do the day job of being a judge or you’re just dead weight.”
“I can’t think of what else he [Cowell] could do to improve the show,” said Santilli. “It just feels dead in the water. Cowell’s problem is that he just doesn’t understand American audiences. What works in Britain isn’t necessarily going to work in the U.S. … that snark factor and negativity doesn’t fly.”
Santilli added that one of the major problems she noticed was that season 2 of “Factor” failed to properly showcase the talents of the singers, which made things get boring very quickly. “The talent wasn’t necessarily the problem, but the contestants looked like children dressing up and trying to fit into musical scenarios where they didn’t belong and it wasn’t very entertaining.”
Though “Factor” has gotten a green light for the upcoming third season, both Santilli and Rushfield agreed that unless Cowell can turn things around and find a way to grow the audience the show might be headed for that crowded reality graveyard in the sky.
They also agreed that while Spears was not particularly engaging and drew ridicule for her blank stares and sparsely worded advice, she will likely emerge unscathed, not to mention a reportedly $15 million richer.
“It didn’t help her career, but it probably didn’t hurt it either,” said Santilli of the singer, who is finishing work on her eighth studio album. “She has a ton of fans already and it she makes some tunes that are danceable and relevant she will be back on the charts. If anything, it hurt Simon that he failed miserably after hiring one of the biggest pop stars on the planet. It bombed and it didn’t help ratings. It’s embarrassing.”
Rushfield said Spears likely got a boost from the widest exposure she’s had since a spate of personal problems beginning in 2007 turned her into the most media-shy mainstream pop star on the planet. “There was a very open question of whether she could keep it together on the air like this and people were betting against her,” he said. “By just showing up and sitting there on live TV … she wasn’t a great judge, but she didn’t shave her hair off or anything, so she proved herself capable of keeping it together.”
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