Simon Cowell launched his new and improved “The X Factor” Wednesday night, with Britney Spears and Demi Lovato replacing judges Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger — and scored the show’s second smallest audience ever.
About 8.7 million people watched the two-hour “X Factor” season opener which, in case viewers had forgotten last season, opened LinkedIn style, with the resume presentation:
It’s a “global phenomenon” the titles said, while unrecognizable global stars whizzed by in images.
It “introduced One Direction, the first UK band to have a number one debut album in the US,” the titles continued.
And, of course, there’s that $5 million dollar prize.
Anyway, those 8.7 million people who tuned in Wednesday is about 1 million shy of the crowd that watched Matthew Perry’s new NBC comedy “Go On” make its timeslot debut, Tuesday at 9.
This season, “X” has shelled out about $15 million to secure the services of Britbrit, and another mil or two for Demi, in an effort to goose its ratings, after the first season failed to clock the 20 million viewers Cowell forecast before its unveiling in September of ‘11.
Demi and Brits qualifications were explained right off the bat on Wednesday’s episode.
Demi voiceover: “I know what my generation is listening to right now.” She brings the demographic cred.
Britney voiceover: “I’ve been doing this business since I was 8 years old.” She brings the experience cred.
“To have sit there and be opinionated on people living their dreams is really hard for me.” Brit was seen telling her manager in a candid moment. Yes, she brought the possibility of emotional breakdown – which, it is well known among TV industry suits, is younger-viewer crack.
And yet, Wednesday’s second season debut finished behind last season’s unveiling, among 18-34 year olds, and teens, as well as 18-49 year olds.
From 8-9 p.m., “X Factor” competed against this season’s third episode of NBC’s “The Voice” and did particularly poorly, snagging only 7.7 million viewers in that first hour. “The Voice” clobbered it, attracting nearly 11 million folks.
“The Voice” also beat “X Factor” in all key age brackets in the hour, including the aforementioned 18-49 year olds guys and chicks, and 18-34 year old chicks. “X” did win among18-34-year-old guys.
They don’t want people to see this first episode,” Cowell had whined to reporters last week after NBC announced at the last minute it was adding a Wednesday night episode of “The Voice” this week, at the exact same time as his “X” debut.
But, he forecast, “three nights in a row [of ‘The Voice’] is too much.
He was wrong.
“X’s” opening crowd of 8.7 million is the second smallest audience ever for the franchise — ahead only of an episode that aired last year on the eve of Thanksgiving, when large swaths of the TV audience tune out to head over the river and through the woods to celebrate the holiday at grandma’s house. That episode had logged 8.6 million viewers.
Wednesday’s disappointing second-season debut buts Cowell even further from the 20 million viewers he cockily forecast, back in the summer of ’11, would be watching his show before long.
This, even though Wednesday’s heavily broadcast featured Brit and Demi.
The two pop stars got to deliver their very first X-Judgements after a leggy, Rihanna-ish 21-year-old nursing student from San Antonio, named Paige Thomas, who’d arrived with her adorable 3-year-old daughter took the stage to sing Mary J. Blige’s ‘I’m Goin’ Down” in a slightly above average way, but with great stage presence and a great body.
Brit: “You’re flawless.”
Demi: “Totally a superstar.”
At that point LA Reid jumped in, to show the gals how it’s done, telling Paige she reminds him that he discovered Rihanna.
Also early in the episode, viewers were treated to a montage of bad singers and Britbrit telling them how very bad they are. “And everybody thinks I’m the mean one,” Simon said, though we don’t think the Brit Is The Other Simon story arc is going to have legs.
Later in the show, Britney was seen looking when a guy with whom she’d recorded a duet 10 years earlier gave a lousy “X” audition as part of his comeback effort. Simon made Britney deliver a judgment, though you’d think she’d be recused -- like a Supreme Court justice.
“I feel like, through the years, maybe you’ve gone through a lot of hardships and battles but your voice isn’t really up to the bar and the standards of ‘The X Factor,’ and what we want,” she said, grimly.
Simon got up from his chair and patted her on the back because it was the least he could do after ambushing her with a failed singing partner from her past. How many other former Brit-partners can the producers dig up before she cracks? It would have to be a lot -- she seemed rather more resilient than they might have hoped.
Demi came in for a lot of close-ups too. Near the end of the episode, when a teenager who’d been bullied in high school exhibited a wonderful capacity to weep openly while singing Jessie J’s “Who You Are,” prompting anti-bullying crusader Demi to get up on stage to give her a hug, even Simon teared up. He popped a breath mint, or a Xanax, or something, to steady himself.
Wednesday’s dismal ratings performance of “X” despite the addition of Britney and Demi, has surely been noted by the producers of Fox’s OTHER singing competition, which also dumped most of its judges for the coming season in a bid to fix sagging ratings.
“American Idol” reportedly shelled out around $18 million to secure the services of Mariah Carey.
And, in a preview clip of her Friday talk show episode, former newswoman Katie Couric reported that Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban have, in fact, been signed, and Randy Jackson survived the purge.
“What do you think about the new group of judges?” Couric asked former “Idol” judge Jennifer Lopez in a preview of Friday’s show sent Wednesday to The Reporters Who Cover Television.
“Did they announce?” Lopez responded cautiously.
“Yeah,” Couric says.
“Who is it?” Lopez said, still cautious.
“Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban and Randy [Jackson] -- Randy's back,” Katie grinned.
“Randy is! Oh thank god. I love Randy!,” Jlo gushed.
A Fox rep said they are not responding to the “rumor” and have no plans to announce the new “Idol” judge panel anytime soon.