Bruised "X Factor" limps toward finals

Fri Dec 16, 2011 5:16pm EST
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - American viewers have chosen the three singers who will compete in the finals of "The X Factor" after a first season that underwhelmed critics and raised questions about audience fatigue ahead of returning TV contests "American Idol" and "The Voice."

Power ballad singer Melanie Amaro, 19, bluesy Josh Krajcik, 30, and troubled rapper Chris Rene, 28, will sing for a $5 million recording contract in next week's two-part finale of the Fox show.

But after major hype from creator and judge Simon Cowell -- who had initially predicted "X Factor" would replace "American Idol" as the most-watched show on U.S. television -- the program's bickering mentor-judges, big production numbers and flashing lights has left many critics scratching their heads.

"As a viewer, it is agonizing to watch and just so fake that none of it is compelling, " said Annie Barrett, who covers "X Factor" for Entertainment Weekly.

"Everything is a gimmick. It is a glossy, shiny version of a reality show that might give you a seizure because of all the lasers and lights," Barrett told Reuters.

Thursday's semi-final, in which 20-year-old hopeful Marcus Canty was eliminated, drew 9.6 million viewers -- below the audience for a repeat of CBS comedy "The Big Bang Theory" and less than half the regular audience for "American Idol" earlier this year.

Fox executives say they are happy with the viewer numbers, especially among teens, and the show has helped the network reverse its historically patchy fall ratings in the 18-49 viewer group most coveted by advertisers.

Fox has already ordered a second season for the fall of 2012, calling "X Factor" a "monumental success."   Continued...