The TV Column: Simon Cowell’s ‘X Factor’ mothership is in trouble


L.A. Reid, Britney Spears, Demi Lovato and Simon Cowell live on “The X Factor”, Wednesday, November 28. (Ray Mickshaw/Fox)
December 10, 2012

Will Simon Cowell return to the British “X Factor” to save the mothership?

Cowell’s U.K.-version “X” just wrapped its ninth season Sunday with its smallest crowd since 2006, according to early stats. An average of about 11 million viewers watched the two-hour season finale — a plunge of 6 million from the audience for the 2010 finale, when Cowell was still a judge, reported the Guardian.

Reporters Who Cover U.K. Television — RWCUKT — note that the show’s 10th edition will be its last under its contract with ITV network, and that it will have to undergo a major overhaul if that last edition isn’t also to be its last hurrah.

Among the forecast changes: Cowell’s return as a judge.

“ ‘The X Factor’ may not be dead but either the end is nigh or Cowell’s return is,” wrote the Times of London.


Comedian Stephen Colbert arrives to be honored at the Time 100 Gala in New York in this file photo taken April 24, 2012. Colbert made it clear he will most definitely serve if called to fill the seat of Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who resigned this week to run the Heritage Foundation. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

That would make things very tough for Cowell, who is a judge on the U.S. version — which also runs in the fourth quarter and is in its second season now.

The American version’s performance night is averaging about 10 million viewers, but Fox, the network that carries it, prefers to focus on other metrics. When it announced the show’s third-season pickup back in October, for instance, Fox noted that “X” is a top five entertainment program among teens this season, and that it had broken social TV records with the most fan engagement of any series on television — three times the social activity of its genre competitors.

At that point, each episode was achieving more Twitter trending topics than the competition. The second-season premiere shattered the record for a launch, garnering 1.4 million social comments, according to the TV analytics firm Bluefin Labs.

In the United States, “X” airs Wednesdays and Thursdays: in Britain, it aired Saturdays and Sundays. So in theory, Cowell could fly back and forth. But that would pretty much nuke the illusion he’s actually “mentoring” “X”-testants in either hemisphere.

It’s unclear whether Cowell’s deal with Fox precludes him from appearing on the British version.

The Times reported that on Sunday’s British finale, “a miserable bespectacled giant” by the name of James Arthur was the winner. Which, the publication said, was the better option than his opponent, Christopher Maloney, who was described as “the schmaltzy . . . balladeer with the charisma and looks of a window cleaner. ” Had Maloney won, the paper reported, “this review would be appearing in the obituaries section.”

Citizen Colbert?

Four days after Comedy Central late-night star Stephen Colbert floated his name as the replacement for Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, Public Policy Polling reported that South Carolinians like the idea.

According to a PPP survey, Colbert tops the list of replacements, with 20 percent of respondents in the state saying they want the comic-turned-faux conservative pundit to represent them in the Senate.

His closest competition: Tim Scott, with 15 percent, according to the pollster.

The state’s governor, Nikki Haley (R), will be the one to decide who will serve in the seat until a special election in ’14.

DeMint announced Thursday that he will vacate his Senate seat in January to run the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation.

That night, Colbert, a South Carolina native who made a push to get on the presidential ballot in the state in the summer, urged viewers to tweet the governor and urge her to appoint him because, he explained, “When I look at the U.S. Senate, I say to myself: ‘You know what they could use? Another white guy.’ ”

Haley, PPP noted, is among the country’s less popular governors, with just 42 percent of voters approving of the job she’s doing. That ranks her 35th out of 43 sitting governors on whom PPP has conducted polling.

The path back to popularity? Appointing Colbert. That’s because it is Democrats and independents who are most pining for a Colbert appointment. Those also are the voters with whom Haley most needs to improve her relations.

Sadly, PPP’s poll came out three days after Haley responded to Colbert, via Facebook, and declined to give him the post, owing to his inability to name the state’s official beverage when she was a guest on “The Colbert Report.”

It’s milk, BTW.

To read previous columns by de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/ tvblog.

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