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TV Column
Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 09/13/2012

‘The X Factor’: Britney Spears, Demi Lovato make their debut


Paige Thomas performs in front of the judges on part-one of the two night season premiere of “The X Factor.” (David Moir - Fox)

In case you forgot last season, or more likely given the ratings, never saw “The X Factor,” the show opens LinkedIn style, with the resume presentation.

It’s a “global phenomenon” the titles say while unrecognizable global stars whiz by in images and “introduced One Direction, the first UK band to have a number one debut album in the US.”

And there’s a $5 million dollar prize.

Judges Simon Cowell and L.A. Reid are back – so, show us already the new judges, Demi Lovato and Britney Spears, and tell us their qualifications!

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 tells her manager in a candid moment. Yes, she’s bringing the possibility of emotional breakdown!

Next, a candid moment between Simon and Demi: “Whats the worst thing that can happen?” he asks trick-rhetorically. Blow your lines and “your career’s over.” Anyway, Demi’s brilliant career as an “X Factor” on-air analyst. Presumably, she’d still have the singing thing.

Enough Green Room drama, let’s have some Contestant Waiting Room drama.

On the one side, leggy, Rihanna-ish 21-year-old nursing student from San Antonio, Paige Thomas, with her heartbreakingly adorable 3-year-old daughter. On the other side, two sisters, Kaci and Kaylee Newton, who look like extras from the canceled ABC series “Good Christian B*ll*s” who gossip that Paige has a run in her stocking, is hogging the mirror, and lets her daughter put her dirty hand on Kaci’s pink jumpsuit in which she plans to audition.

“X Factor” wants us to hate them.

At last an audition!

Paige takes the stage to sing Mary J. Blige’s “I’m Goin’ Down.” She’s above average in the singing but really sells it in the stage presence.

Brit and Demi deliver their first ever X-Judgements.

Brit: “You’re flawless”

Demi: “Totally a superstar”.

LA Reid tells Paige she reminds him that he discovered Rihanna.

She sails through to the next round. Her daughter gets sent out on stage for a hug. Cut to the Christian B*ll*s looking jealous.

Shawn Armenta works for an airline in Phoenix. We got a bad feeling about Shawn because, well, he’s 50, and not in a good way, meaning no homeless on the streets for years, etc. backstory.

Sure enough, he’s awful and a mean loser.

Demi: “A lot of people work very hard for their dreams but it’s not meant for everybody.”

Shawn: “That’s why you use auto tune and I don’t.”

Demi: “….”

Demi isn’t going to do comebacks, we think. Anyway, not in the first episode.

Next, a montage of bad singers, and Britbrit telling them how bad they are. “And everybody thinks I’m the mean one,” Simon says, though we don’t think the Brit Is The Other Simon story arc is going to have legs.

Reed Deming, 13, from San Antonio combs his hair like Justin Bieber so everybody thinks he looks just like Justin Bieber, because any moderately cute white boy with the Bieber comb-over causes the beholder to think he looks like Bieber. It’s a medical fact of our times.

Demi: “You are so cute!”

Reed tries to sing “It Will Rain” by Bruno Mars but he’s too shaky with nerves, or just terrible, or both. Anyway, Simon gives him another chance. He switches to “Grenade” by Bruno Mars and does a little better.

Brit: “You are completely and utterly adorable.”

LA says he reminds him of Bieber.

And Simon, after initially sounding negative, swings around and pronounces “I think we could be looking at a future pop star in you.” It’s the first Simon switcheroo of the season.

Cut to those Sour Sisters looking jealous. They even hate Bieber look-alikes.

Backstage, Simon and Demi, Demi tells Simon, “Niall says hi.”

Simon looks very surprised, like he wasn’t sure she was referring to the Niall Horan in the band One Direction which, you know, was discovered on the UK “X Factor” and went on to have the first No. 1 something in something -- we forget already.

“Have you kissed him?” Simon asks, like some pervy father.

“Keep away from him. He’s pure,” Simon adds, by which he seems to imply that she is not. We sense breaking celebri-news here.

Demi seems a bit taken aback by the whole Pervy Father storyline she’s being maneuvered into. “I’m not going to date anybody for a whole year,” she insists.

Phew! It’s a relief to get back to the Sour Sisters. At least we know their motives.

It’s finally time for Kaci to audition. We hope Paige’s little daughter runs on stage and bites her in the calf.

“You remind me of someone,” Simon says, looking from Kaci to Britney, though, other than the blonde hair, there’s not much resemblance there. Brit seems confused.

“Are you a singer?” LA Reid asks, a probable tip that the producers have clued him in as to her awfulness.

“Firework” by Katy Perry is her chosen vehicle of awfulness.

Britney’s mouth hangs open during the performance.

Simon not only says she can’t sing, but adds, “You were quite annoying, so I’m going to say ‘no’.”

And, with that, the gang’s off to San Francisco.

Britney Spears wearing glasses looks like Blonde Rachel Maddow. This is uncanny.

But this segment isn’t done with the shock value.

How about a guy in white lace panties, a wedding veil, bright pink lipstick, and fishnet stockings?

Was it only a few years ago that Simon used to “josh” with “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest:

“I’m implying you’re gay, ho ho!”

“No, I’m implying YOU’RE gay, ho ho!”

Anyway, this guy’s a 21-year-old cake decorator who says he’s come to get married to “The X Factor.” Simon looks uncomfortable. LA looks uncomfortable.

But the cake decorator has them outfoxed. He’s singing “Born This Way,” the Lady Gaga acceptance anthem. Not very well, but still….

Britney’s up on her feet and blowing him a kiss.

“You were a little off key, but for the most part you were entertaining, “ she says.

Demi: “Omigod, I love you and I love your lipstick color.”

Simon, sensing the youngsters on the judges panel are about to make him look really old and fuddy duddy-esque, suggests the guy looks like the love child of Madonna, Bobby Brown, and Dracula, adding, “but in a weird way I quite liked it.”

Vincent Thomas, a 22-year-old actor is a bore as a one-boy boy band.

But next is a group, Emblem 3, a 15-, 18- and 19-year old who are going to sing their own composition “Sunset Boulevard”.

The backing tape is really loud so the whole routine is pretty much

[swagga]

[swagga]

[swagga]

“Sunset Boulevard!”

The audience is on their feet and these three are the first to bring any real heat to the evening.

LA loves them.

Brit says “You guys were very funky and your voices are smooth and I loved it. “

Demi: “You are so cute!”

“We think YOU’RE cute!” responds one of them.

“No! Barrier, barrier, barrier!” says Simon to Demi.

Omigod, they are so through to the next level.

Don Philip, 32, is a sad case. Ten years ago, he recorded a duet with Britney, he was that promising. Since then he’s suffered a lot of rejection and self-doubt, we learn.

They bring him out.

Brit’s mouth drops open. “I used to record with him a long time ago,” she whispers.

“I never thought I’d see you again,” says Don. He weeps.

The he bucks up. “I want my shot,” he tells Simon. Big applause from the audience.

His song is Beyonce’s “Halo” and it is pretty awful.

Britney looks sorrowful and finally won’t look at him.

Simon stops him.

Simon makes 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 says, grimly.

Poor Don collapses backstage in tears. “My god, I saw her face! I felt like I hurt her!” he wails.

Simon goes over to Britneys’ seat to pat her on the back because it’s the least he could do after totally ambushing her with a failed singing partner from her past.

Well, that was emotional. How many other former Brit-partners can the producers dig up before she cracks? (Actually, she seemed rather more resilient than they might have hoped.)

Here we are in Providence, RI. Jennel Garcia, 18, from Massachusetts, says she’s fan of Pat Benatar and rocks it like Benatar on ‘Paris,” by Grace and the Nocturnals.

Demi says she was thrown because, “you have such a cute face then all of sudden it’s like: ‘I’m on fire’.”

Simon says “you’re different, you’re exciting and I really, really like you.”

Jillian Jensen, 19, from Rochester, Massachusetts, was bullied in high school, so coming into the presence of anti-bullying crusader Demi Lovato is an honor for her. “This is totally by coincidence, I swear…I happened to get a tattoo and it happens to say “Stay Strong,” she says.

Just like Demi’s tattoo.

Roll backstage interview with Jillian for more on the bullying, more crying, and a vow to get through the audition to stick it to the bulliers.

Jillian has this wonderful capacity to weep openly while singing, in a raspy voice, Jessie J’s “Who You Are”.

Demi gets on stage to give her a hug.

“I have never heard anybody take their pain…and pour it into a song the way you did. Ever,” says LA.

Even Simon tears up. He pops a breath mint, or a Xanax, or something, to steady himself.

“The fact that you have the ability to stand on stage and sing while you’re crying is so brave,” says Demi.

“…I cant wait for the bullies at home to see this,” she adds.

The judges give her a ringing endorsement. Backstage, Demi asks Simon if he did in fact cry. He makes a sign like “a little bit”.

“Omigod,” she says. “You do have a heart!”

Will somebody please roll a preview tape of tomorrow night’s episode, showing disappointed contestants spitting, cursing and throwing things before we tear up?

Thank you!

By  |  06:00 AM ET, 09/13/2012

 
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