Boot camp further solidifies X Factor as American Idol: Melodrama Edition, but there may be hope

After a few weeks of The X Factor, I am still in disbelief about how similar to American Idol it is. There’s not even the vaguest attempt to change anything other than the things that matter least. There’s nothing inherently wrong with having another American Idol, or having the mid-2000s version back on the air, but Simon Cowell and Fox have pretended for years now that the show would be something totally new. It’s not.

The most significant change is that the producers have ratcheted up the melodrama; Idol drenches us with sappiness and it’s impossible to imagine getting more wet. But there it is. Most of the melodrama comes from the background music, which is incredibly epic and/or sentimental; whoever was in charge of finding that music deserves a raise, because they did well, from “Take a Look at Me Now” playing as we heard from a contestant whose father died on the first day of boot camp (“For the rest of my life, I have to deal with mising my father’s funeral. For the rest of my life.”) to Whitney Houston’s “One Moment In Time” playing as we learned the fate of different groups.

There is slightly less fucking with the contestants (“it’s not good news–it’s great news”), and the show did something interesting when it compensated for its lack of talented groups by forming two brand new ones out of the pool of rejected contestants. I have no idea how 10 individual singers are going to form a competitive, functional group in such a short amount of time, but that may be fun to watch.

The end of last night’s boot camp episode offered some hope for change: The banker from Deal or No Deal called to let the judges know which group they’d mentor. L.A. Reid has the guys, Nicole has the people over 30, Simon Cowell has the women, and Paula Abdul has the groups, which she said would be the hardest to mentor.

Next week, they cut their groups in half after what looks like performances at their homes, and then we’re on to live shows starting at the beginning of November. The mentoring and live shows have the greatest potential to be different, but that doesn’t change how this has fundamentally been the same show for weeks now, so I don’t expect it to change that much.

Review: Married at First Sight

Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

Beyond the headline-grabbing premise, the series has turned out to be a stripped-down, authentic exploration of something very interesting. Read the full review.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.