Reactions to the departures of "X Factor" host Steve Jones and judges Nicole Scherzinger and Paula Abdul seem to run the gamut from "all but expected" (that would be poor Jonesy, who never truly seemed to find his footing as emcee) to "jaw-dropping shock" (that's the consensus over Abdul's axing, especially since show producers made it seem that she and Simon Cowell were a tandem deal).
And while folks can debate how the trio's exits will impact the show, seemingly everyone can agree that, when "X Factor" returns for its second season later this year, it will most certainly be a very different show — one that faces an uphill battle to not only win over viewers, but deliver on the promises Cowell made when it first debuted.
"This is a new beginning, this is hitting reset," Detroit News pop music writer and MTV News contributor Adam Graham said Tuesday (January 31). "I never thought the changes were going to be this drastic. ... I think it means that [the producers] are serious, and I think it means that they've acknowledged that they haven't delivered the product they hoped to, and going through a change like this means they want to make it better and they want to deliver on the promise of this big show that many view as a failure, especially after Simon Cowell made all these proclamations about it when it first premiered."
"I think [Scherzinger and Jones] were both marked for death by early December, if not Thanksgiving, and I would have been shocked if either one of them came back," added Michael Slezak, who covers reality TV for TVLine.com. "I don't think Paula did a terrible job ... [and] I think her getting the ax sends a much bigger message, like, 'We're not just going to make a couple of little changes. We're pretty much reinventing the show from the ground up.' "
So where does "X Factor" go from here? Well, for starters, it has to find some folks to replace the recently departed trio — a task that may be easier said than done, given the show's rather rocky first season.
"There's rumors that [Cowell] wants to bring Mariah Carey on. ... Simon's always had this idea that 'X Factor' was going to be like 'American Idol' on steroids, so getting someone like Mariah would be huge," said Lyndsey Parker, managing editor of Yahoo! Music. "But I don't know if she would do it, because is the show now considered a sinking ship? I think the image of 'X Factor' is a little tarnished; the ratings weren't what Simon said they were going to be. I have doubts about how successful any of the people who got signed from the show are going to be, so now, I think a little bit of the cachet of joining Simon's new venture, when they're already making massive cast switch ups one season in."
"I think where Simon is at in his career, it wouldn't shock me if he just goes for a big name ... but you can get the biggest star in the world, you can get someone who hosted the Oscars, like Ellen DeGeneres, and they still can't handle giving live criticism," Slezak said. "It's one thing to be a big-name star; it's another thing to be fast enough on TV to be able to watch a 90-second performance, be able to form an opinion immediately and then give a quick, succinct, honest assessment of that performance and to be willing to do that."
And frankly, it may not matter who Cowell and company bring in for the second season of the show. If you listen to those who covered it, the damage may have already been done, and the abrupt dumping of three members of the on-air team may not be enough to turn the tide.
"In a lot of ways, I think all of this is sort of a real acknowledgement that 'X Factor' failed and needs a complete reinvention," Graham said. "I don't know if just getting rid of three people is enough to do that."
"There's no doubt that there's reality-competition fatigue right now. ... It's almost like there's just too many types of these shows on the air, and it's basically year-round," Slezak added. "They've got to convince people that it's worth investing their whole fall to watching it and convince people that they've changed enough to deserve a second chance. Now they're up against it, and the fact that it wasn't a huge phenomenon like 'American Idol' makes it easier to ignore."
Will "X Factor" ever live up to the hype? Well, for the time being at least, the high-profile departures have certainly returned the public's focus to the show. The real key to its survival seems to be what Cowell does next.
"In the short term, if you believe any publicity is good publicity, people are talking about 'X Factor' for perhaps the first time since the finale. And there's going to be a lot of people speculating and debating about who they'd like to see replace Steve and Paula and Nicole," Parker said. "Changes to shows always get people talking ... but in the long term, if they run into more chemistry problems again, I think the show is going to be considered a bit of a joke. So I hope Simon casts the show wisely."
What do you think the "X Factor" exits mean? Let us know in the comments!