PASADENA, Calif. — Britney Spears will not stick around to mentor X-testants on the third season of the Fox singing competition “The X Factor,” according to an industry source who has knowledge of the situation.
No surprise here.
The pop star was being paid $15 mill-ish to play a mentor on the show. That would have been a small price to pay had she goosed the ratings of “X Factor,” which in its first season achieved only half the crowd that creator Simon Cowell had promised.
But Brit failed to deliver, the ratings tumbled further in the second season and the show got clobbered by NBC’s singing-competition series, “The Voice.”
A Fox rep decline to comment on Spears’s status at the network.
Word of Spears’s reported exit surfaced less than 48 hours after Fox Entertainment Chairman Kevin Reilly told TV critics that Spears did a good job on the show and that the network was on board with bringing her back for the third season.
“I think Britney did a really good job,” he said at Winter TV Press Tour 2013. “People remain fascinated with her and always will be. She tucked in really nicely on that bench.”
Those remarks left at least one TV columnist wondering what show Reilly had been watching. Despite her fame and history of bizarro behavior, Britbrit’s time on “X” was most notable for her apparent boredom and limited vocabulary — “awesome” and one or two other words.
That was enormously disappointing to viewers, who’d naturally hoped to see the pop star engage in more of her famed erratic behavior.
In exiting, Bribrit would be joining L.A. Reid, who has also bailed on the third season. He said that he has to get back to his other career: finding music talent in the real world.
This would be the second time that “X” has replaced two mentors on the show. At the end of the first season, Cowell dumped Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger, as well as host Steve Jones, citing the disappointing ratings — numbers that he’d now be happy to get.
The show this season also added mentor Demi Lovato and co-hosts: Veteran Mario Lopez was joined by Khloe Kardashian, who every week read every line off cue cards as if she were taking the eye test at the DMV.
TV critics took a break Thursday from the We Welcome a Conversation About TV’s Role in Rampant Real-Life Gun Violence Press Tour to mull whether they should be knicker-knotted about the Hitler joke made by this year’s Oscars host, Seth MacFarlane, at that morning’s Academy Awards nominations unveiling.
“Look, I’m a huge Seth fan. What he brings first is a sense of joy. He wants to be there,” ABC programming chief Paul Lee told the critics when asked about the joke.
“He brings a lot of energy to it. . . . He’s coming to the Oscars with a great sense of respect but brings a really contemporary feel,” said Lee, boldly ignoring the aged Hitler gag.
“I’m feeling good about it and particularly about him — I think we’ll see a very entertaining Oscars, and Seth is right at the heart of that. I’m really bullish about that.”
Hours earlier, MacFarlane and Emma Stone read the names of nominees in the best foreign film derby, after which MacFarlane said that one of the flicks was co-produced by Austria and Germany and that the last time those two countries co-produced something, it was Hitler.
Eventually, though, critics asked Lee the TV-and-violence question. But because ABC is the only major broadcast network without a serial killer in its prime-time lineup, their hearts weren’t really in it.
Lee called recent events — including last month’s killings of 20 elementary schoolchildren and several adults in Connecticut and the slayings of a dozen moviegoers last summer at a Colorado theater — “awful” and “heartbreaking.” Lee then launched into the traditional network suit line: “Certainly we welcome the conversation,” blah, blah, blah.
Then he began to discuss ABC’s “stringent standards,” which he claimed were more stringent than those of its competitors, adding: “We think about it and talk about it all the time.”
“Look, we’re storytellers,” he said, but storytellers with “integrity” and a “moral compass” who tolerate “no gratuitous violence.”
Speaking of storytellers with integrity, the “Dancing With the Stars” all-stars edition was a bust in the fall because, Lee said, it turns out people like watching bad overweight celebrity dancers shed pounds and learn their left foot from their right for the first time — instead of seeing previous-season winners and crowd faves re-competing.
The all-star edition was concocted to keep the show as competitive as possible when it went head-to-head with “The Voice” for the first time in the fall. “Dancing” scored some record-low numbers for the franchise — down 20 percent year to year among viewers and 30 percent among young viewers.
The fall’s ratings fiasco notwithstanding, Lee said that the network is still committed to running a spring edition and two rounds each season.
“There’s a lot of life left in it,” he insisted.
Airing on two nights in the fall, the “Dancing” all-star edition contributed more than its share to ABC’s third-place finish so far this season.
Lee said he was disappointed that none of his new series became hits last fall. The network has scrubbed two of its high-profile freshman drama series: “Last Resort” and “666 Park Avenue.”
Shows that succeed on ABC are “smart with heart,” the executive said. That’s Lee-speak for: “can be male-skewing, but had better be very relatable to ABC’s mostly female audience.”
“If we ever have a [series with a] ‘Do Not Enter’ sign for women, that’s not going to work for us,” Lee said, when asked why these freshman shows had failed.
Yet ABC has ordered a pilot from Joss Whedon for a drama called “S.H.I.E.L.D,” based on Marvel’s “The Avengers.”
“I don’t want to jinx it, but we’re very excited about it,” said Lee, calling it “very Joss” and, yes, “smart with heart.”
To read more from Winter TV Press Tour 2013, go to washingtonpost.com/tvblog.