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As Fox cancels ‘X Factor,’ assessing the state of the singing competition series

Kelly Rowland, Demi Lovato, Paulina Rubio and Simon Cowell. (Ray Mickshaw/Fox)

Fox finally put “The X Factor” out of its misery, pulling the plug on the low-rated competition series after three seasons.

Officially, Simon Cowell is to blame — he’s heading back to the U.K. to judge the original version of the show, which he created in 2004. “Unfortunately, there is no ‘X Factor USA’ without Simon Cowell,” said Fox entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly in a statement. “But we understand and support his decision to focus on the international formats and on the next phase of his personal life.” (Translation: The struggling series was a disaster and no one wanted to wrangle a fourth season out of a show that no one was watching.)

Before panic sets in that “X Factor’s” demise spells the end to the era of singing competition shows, fear not — there are still plenty of contenders left that show no sign of going anywhere. “X Factor,” may have cleared some space, but for those of you who say “Wait, that show is still on?” here’s a look at the current state of the reality singing competition show.

The veteran: “American Idol” on Fox (Wednesdays and Thursdays)

Though ratings are a shell of what they used to be, there’s no denying the staying power of “Idol,” the classic singing competition series. Even in its 13th season, it’s still pulling in about 13 million viewers per episode. (Granted, that’s just about the lowest in the show’s history.) But for a reality series that old, the numbers are still solid — and “Idol” is doing everything it can to reinvent itself to a happy place in a post-Cowell world, with a cheery new panel of judges including J-Lo, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr.

The (sorta) newcomer: “The Voice” on NBC (Season 6 premieres Feb. 24)

Would you believe “The Voice” debuted less than three years ago but has already aired five seasons? NBC knew it had a hit and pounced immediately, airing two editions per year. Even though the judges’ chair-spinning gimmick in the early rounds is starting to lose its luster, the fifth season’s ratings were on par with those of “Idol.” The spring edition kicks off soon with Usher and Shakira again swapping in for Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera, joining the Adam Levine/Blake Shelton bromance. The buzz is still strong, and with former winners Cassadee Pope and Danielle Bradbery having recent hits on the country charts, there’s less talk about the show being unable to produce a real star.

The “less is more” approach: “The Sing-Off” on NBC (Usually airs in December, but Season 5 unknown)

Despite trying to make it a real fall contender in 2011, this a cappella competition is at its strongest airing over just a few weeks during the holiday season. Ratings for the finale hit a low at the end of last year, and there’s no word yet on a fifth season — though strong word-of-mouth could bring it back for another spectacle in December.

The experiment: “Rising Star” on ABC (Debuts summer 2014)

It’s another stab at a singing competition, and it sounds just wacky enough to work. ABC’s president Paul Lee announced during the 2014 winter press tour that “Rising Star,” adapted from an Israeli series, will debut this summer with a twist: Instead of viewer votes shrouded in secrecy, people will be able to see votes in real time, on a screen, as the contestant is singing. Sound complicated and somewhat demoralizing? ABC probably hopes so, though they still have to work out those pesky time zone issues.

The randoms: “Killer Karaoke” on truTV (Premieres Feb. 20 on truTV); “Copycat” on MTV (in production)

Although stretching the definition of “singing competition,” “Killer Karaoke” challenges people to sing karaoke while going through (often disgusting) “extreme and outrageous circumstances” (cactus maze, anyone)? Meanwhile, MTV is casting for “Copycat,” from “Bachelor” producer Mike Fleiss. The show tracks down people who sing exactly like their idols.

Emily Yahr covers pop culture and entertainment for the Post. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyYahr.



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Bethonie Butler · February 10, 2014

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