There is no doubt that American Idol has been a huge success worldwide. Beginning as Pop Idol in the UK, the franchise has spread to just about every country and virtually every major language around the globe.
For some reason the large-scale singing competition has struck a chord in the psyche of the human race, despite language, politics, or culture. In fact, the format has been so popular that a number of other singing competition shows have tried to capitalize on the success of Idol, like The Voice, The Sing Off, America’s Got Talent, the upcoming Karaoke Battle USA, and Simon Cowell’s new show The X-Factor. But is the X-Factor different enough to get people to care about it come this fall, or will it be more white noise in an overcrowded market?
Even a source close to Simon Cowell says that the former Idol judge is worried about the X-Factor’s chances this fall. Says one source: “Not only is there a question of how The X Factor will stack up against these other singing competition shows, but there’s a question about whether anyone is even going to be in the mood for another one in the fall.” Reportedly, Cowell wasn’t counting on the success of The Voice and didn’t think that American Idol would be as popular after he left the program.
Cowell started the X-Factor in the UK after only 2 seasons of Pop Idol. Idol was cancelled and the X-Factor took over in its place. But in America, Idol is still going strong—and maybe better than ever. And the X-Factor doesn’t have much to differentiate it from its predecessor. Just like Idol, the new contender will begin with auditions in front of the judges, who will narrow the field down to a group of top performers. The top performers will be whittled down again and then perform live to compete for viewer votes.
A slight difference is that the X-Factor will feature 4 categories (Males under 25, Females under 25, individuals over 25 [with no upper age limit], and Groups). And the top competitors in each category will be mentored by one of the 4 show judges individually, with an eye toward the live competition. But this “different” format is already familiar to fans of The Voice whose competition is very similar. As it stands, the X-Factor may have been original in the UK, but in America, it will seem like a mish-mash of other singing competition shows and may not be different enough for anyone to care.
The reality of television is that when a show or format is a hit, producers immediately try and recreate the “magic” of that hit by copying the format, making it just different enough to seem new while still capitalizing on the success of the original. But is there a point at which the public simply gets sick of being fed the same show 15 different ways and changes the channel?
Granted, X-Factor’s lack of an upper age limit could be a welcome change compared to all the glossy-looking 20-somethings that currently dominate the singing competition stages. But that factor alone may not be enough to get people to watch. The truth is that X-Factor is simply American Idol Redux, giving us more of the same competition we’ve already been watching. Come this fall, audiences may simply be tired of emotionally investing in the bevy of other talent show competitors to even tune it.