While Fox has yet to announce another "X Factor" season, Simon Cowell assured fans earlier this week that the show would be back for round four. This time, Cowell said he may be playing a "different kind of role," while the series itself could be facing a format change-up.
The revelation isn't exactly a shocker. Ratings have hit record lows for the reality program in its third season, while its direct competition, NBC's "The Voice," continues to pull big numbers week-by-week. Though "The Voice's" Tuesday finale saw a 20 percent drop from last year's fall finale, and an 11 percent drop from the more recent spring finale, it still topped "X Factor's" 1.7-rated Thursday finish.
That's not to say "X Factor," which last year spawned the breakout groups Fifth Harmony and Emblem3, can't steal the spotlight back from its competitors.
Cowell suggested earlier this week that next season could see shortened airtime, possibly transitioning into a once-a-week event, among other format changes. And with < a href="http://www.mtv.com/artists/demi-lovato/">Demi Lovato officially exiting the show after two seasons, it also seems that a judge shakeup is imminent.
When it comes to an "X Factor" facelift, here's five things MTV News thinks will breathe new life into the show.
We get it, sometimes the judges need to tell it like it is. Cowell, in particular, can always be counted on to offer up the harsh truth when a performance goes awry. That said, audiences commit to watching talent with the hopes of seeing them succeed — not fail. We're not saying that the judges need to comply with an if-you-don't-have-anything-nice-to-say... policy, but we could do without the just-for-laughs auditions from hell.
Better Talent (And More Of It)
The reality show talent pool has been watered down with "American Idol," "The Voice," "America's Got Talent" and "X Factor" all looking for competitors. While season three saw a few standouts (hello, Alex & Sierra), we saw mediocre performers advance farther than they should have. A stronger incentives package could draw artists, or, more likely, a stronger judges' panel. Cowell is notorious for taking his time and playing coy when it comes to selecting his co-panelists, but if hopefuls had more of a heads up on their potential mentors, that could prove a major draw at auditions.
The Simon-Demi dynamic brought sparks to season two, but something's changed. What once came across as playful banter had a bit more bite. Their spats grew more uncomfortable than laughable. (And about that "Annoying Juice" segment ... awk-ward.) Kelly Rowland does her best to bring both fun and expertise to the table, but there's a severe shortage of silly engagement between the foursome. Aside from the obligatory disagreements, we rarely see the judges interacting in a friendly, we-hang-out-off-set-too kind of way. As for Mario Lopez: he's the consummate professional onstage, but the TV vet rarely breaks character or strays from the script. They're called "TV Personalities" for a reason, right?
Embrace The Appeal of Country (And Pop)
Pop panels have ruled "The X Factor," with Cowell casting the likes of Britney Spears, Nicole Scherzinger and Paula Abdul in past seasons and in the U.K.. We think it's worth acknowledging the appeal of contemporary country. If we've learned anything from these talent competition programs, it's that the country audience is fiercely loyal.
Season two saw country crooner Tate Stevens take home the $5 million recording contract. This season, country fans carried the trio Restless Road all the way to the semi-finals. (Need we mention "Idol's" Carrie Underwood and Scotty McCreery, and "The Voice's" Cassadee Pope and Danielle Bradbery. Heck, much of that audience tunes in for Blake Shelton alone.) "X Factor" would be crazy not to consider adding a fun, country-flavored judge with crossover appeal — think Taylor Swift, Hillary Scott, Kimberly Perry, Hunter Hayes or Luke Bryan. There are four judges chairs for a reason — add a little variety!
Make Each Performance Unique
Cowell has said that season-three winners Alex & Sierra are "by far the best artists to come through," but why have they had so much success on the iTunes charts? Maybe because they offer a new and unique perspective on the pop hits that fans already know and love. Cut the karaoke and offer up fresh and interesting arrangements for all the contestants. Better yet, give the finalists some new material to perform. It's tough to back an artist when viewers have never heard a unique thing out of his or her mouth.
What did you think of "The X Factor's" season three finale? Would you tune in for season four?