X Factor’s singing and hosting: what in the hell?

Since the early days of American Idol, I’ve argued that it–along with other talent competition series, from Top Chef to Project Runway–aren’t primarily talent competitions, especially when the public’s vote is involved. They’re popularity contests for which talent is, at best, one data point, and that’s what makes them reality shows rather than mere talent competitions. Everything from personality to backstory to hotness plays a role.

Yet I was still blown away by the lack of talent on The X Factor‘s first live performance show last night, both in terms of the contestants and new host Khloe Kardashian, who couldn’t have seemed more out of place if she was wearing a Steve Jones mask for Halloween.

The singing was, at best, medicore, and at worst, atrocious. And I like shitty pop music! The worst offender was the final act, Emblem Three, a trio of hot teenage guys who act goofy and take off their shirts a lot. After they performed, L.A. Reid dropped his anti-Simon act and said the performance was a success, and Simon Cowell said, without a single bit of irony, “remember this night, because you are seeing a future superstar here.”

Really? This group? Because of this song?

The Sing-Off loses its star

Ben Folds

NBC's super-fun December a capella singing competition The Sing-Off is returning, but without its star judge, Ben Folds, and only as a two-hour special. Those are really depressing changes for a series that proved itself to be a super-fun show when it returned last December.


A film director talks about becoming a reality TV character

Anna Martemucci

What is it like to have your life turned into reality TV? Director Anna Martemucci, one of the two directors featured on Starz' exceptional reality series, talks about that, the competition, and her collaboration with her husband and brother-in-law.

Plus: How the show's producers tried to keep the $250,000 competition fair.

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.