Extended X Factor Promo: Simon Cowell's Emotional Manipulation Got Me Choked Up!

Congratulations, Simon Cowell, evil British genius! In the course of a new eight-minute promo for your heavily hyped singing competition, The X Factor, you’ve managed to upend some of my most deeply held beliefs about reality television:

* That there’s no place on talent shows for kids under the age of 16 | Okay, yes, precocious 13-year-old Rachel Crow is a little too over-rehearsed with those sound bites — although “I’m a girl. I need my own bathroom” isn’t bad, especially if she came up with it herself — but when she starts singing “Mercy,” my jaw hits the keyboard with Pavlovian regularity. I hate myself for saying this, but I can’t wait to see what the kid does next.

* That it’s impossible for me to experience a genuine emotional response to a heavy-handed “feel something right this second!” audition package | Maybe I’m killing off the part of my brain devoted to cynicism with all the sauvignon blanc required to recap Bachelor Pad, but I’ve now gotten choked up on three separate occasions watching 42-year-old Stacy declare, “I don’t wanna die with this music in me, Simon!” Bonus sniffles for the mascara streaming down her face. Also: WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME?

* That staged audience shots set to maudlin/inspirational music always ruin everything everything ever | Those “I’m on camera so I’d better look genuinely amazed!” reactions drive me bonkers on America’s Got Talent, but somehow they felt less disingenuous during Rachel and Stacy’s auditions. I dunno: Maybe the excitement of the Paula and Simon re-u-ooh-nion is making everything look more exciting than it is?

A few other observations…

* Paula definitely has a portrait in her attic that looks something like this.

* I wonder if Nicole Scherzingerwhatzit’s remark about getting her start on a reality competition — “I lived it, and I still live it” — betrays some kind of deep-seated fear that she’s going to be replaced by Mariah Carey one sweet day.

* Uff da to that X Factor convoy traveling through scenic American landscapes. You know they’re probably shipping their sets via FedEx plane.

* The white shirt Simon wears during that judges’ table squabble may be his most dangerous neckline ever. Someone get that man a button. Or three.

What do you think of the new X Factor promo? Are you planning to watch when it debuts Sept. 21? If so, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV, because there will be recaps!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Deb says:

    Clearly this is going to be a belter’s competition. Hmmmmm…

    • remmez says:

      Clearly it is. And clearly L.A that Pussycat b!tch, Paula and Simon all got sh!t in their ears again calling that stay woman great.. Seriously.. she was horrible.. just screaming and belting and making a mess out of that song. Hated the 13 y.o. overacting child also. i have seen enough to say i won’t watch this. It’s just as lame as American Idol [as a matter of fact x-facor replaced idol over here in the netherlands]. I still say: The voice and Platinum hit overrule this mess and AmId any day. Next please..

  2. Ken Lee says:

    Please no Mariah Carey!

  3. Margie says:

    Oh, man! Now I’m going to have to watch the X Factor. Rachel Crow’s rendition of Mercy was ridiculous (in a good way). But, Stacey’s caterwauling is just plain ridiculous. Best auditiion, Simon? Really?Stacey needs to ditch that Tammy Faye Baker mascara too.

  4. Kellis says:

    THIS IS GONNA BE EPIC!!!!!!! I’m officially won over.

  5. Kathryn says:

    I too was won over by this extended promo. I was all set to pass, my fall tv sched is so packed. But, if these two ladies are any indication of the talent that coming…I am all in. I usually don’t get choked up but, Stacy got me. Damn you Simon! (p.s I totally remember Nicole S. on Popstars)

    • tina says:

      I remember her on Popstars too, and shamefully admit, I bought the cd. May still have it somewhere! Loved Stacy, not so sure about Rachel. Sometimes the kids on these shows are just annoying.

    • dan says:

      Sob. I can’t believe I fell for that. I’m going to watch too.

  6. Brando says:

    There are *no* words (and that’s *not* a compliment). Just waiting for Awake, Smash, Scandal & Good Christian Belles. 2012 can’t come soon ’nuff.

  7. Miriam says:

    Complete opposite reaction. I love X Factor UK. LOVE it. But this promo was terrible. Too much emphasis on 2 contestants (one good, one overrated, both at a distinct advantage in the competition now), rather than an overview of the show. Not enough intro into how it’s different from Idol other than the ages/group categories. No info about the host, who nobody knows about here in the US.

    I’ll watch anyway, since I know kinda what to expect, but I really think this promo did a disservice to the show for newbies.

    • Rob says:

      The host is irrelevant. No one is watching for him… her… not sure. Why waste precious airtime on someone no one cares about yet when the true focus should be (as it was) on Simon, Paula, and the contestants?

      An InfoDump about how the show works was also not at all needed. You’re asking for stuff that makes no sense to show.

  8. Elaine says:

    Welcome back, Simon. Stilll love you. Actual critiques by the judges… it doesn’t get any better than that (are you paying attention American Idol judges?).

    I’m not sure where the judges are coming from with Stacey. I don’t think she’s that good and the extended high-itched ending had me reaching for earplugs (reminded me of Jacob from AI).

    The 13-year old is charming as heck and cute…. look oforward to hearing what funny comments come out of her mouth next… but based on what I saw… that isn’t a $5 million dollar talent. (I’d liove to see her acting though.. I bet she’d be great.

    X-Factor…. looking forward to you…….. Got my friends, appetizers, ____tinis and our weekly bets ready to go.

    American Idol…. a distant, unpleasant memory. When I heard it would be the same three judges as last season I considered slashing up (almost). Let’s hope there’s no Haley for them to torment this year. Not that I’d know.. because I won’t be watching.

    Looking forward to a Jackie Evancho or a Suan Boyole or Paull Potts coming out of the woodwork. Love the “peple over 12” all being eligible. This is much more of a “someone with a dream who never had a chance” can make it kind of a show.

    Michael, can’t wait to hear your commentary.

  9. Volcfom says:

    I did not think Rachel was all that great, but maybe I wasn’t in the right mindset after just witnessing my two football teams go down in flames.

  10. Marijke says:

    Other than X is sponsored by Pepsi and the age limit stretched, I want to know how this is different than Idol. This promo did nothing to explain the show.

    • xav says:

      There are groups allowed, people are mentored and have their songs chosen by the judge assigned to their group.

      • Saulo says:

        All the shows are bigger than you’ve ever seen on American Idol.
        The auditions in front of thousands of people are more exciting. The judges HELP the contestants. It’s not about finding someone who is ready, it’s about identify star quality potencial (The X-Factor) and then, by mentoring talented people, see as they become stars in front of your eyes.

        The judges compete with each other. Each one of them has a team – boys 12-25, girls 12-25, groups and singers over 25 years old. It’s a lot of fun!

  11. Kim R says:

    I wasn’t planning on watching this show…until now. I have to admit it was like a breath of fresh air to listen to Simon. I can’t believe I’m saying that! The show looks great. Is it just music? I’m hoping it is not like America’s Got Talent and all the bizarre acts they have. :)

  12. Danielle H. says:

    Pretty sure this is going to pave the way for Fox to dump AI since I’m sure this is going to be a smash hit. Not going to be watching myself, but I can just tell people are going to flip over this show.

    • Michael says:

      I’m pretty sure American Idol is *still* the number one show on television and its ratings increased in 2011 as compared to 2010. Don’t think it’s going anywhere any time soon.

      • Saulo says:

        The problem is: people start to watch Idol and realize how wrong Idol is. You like this show, but you’re about to discover something better.

        Simon creates this show by taking everything he didnt like on Idol. It’s brilliant.

  13. kevin says:

    From the best (American Idol) to the worst (The X Factor). The emotional one so far is Stacy and Steve Jones eyeing the contestants backstage says it all or perhaps his reaction to them.

  14. Jenny says:

    Just seeing Simon back actually giving real opinions is enough to get me to watch. Even if I am being manipulated, it isn’t as obvious like on Idol. Simon shut down his last season and it seems like he has the interest again. For me that previewed reminded me of Idol of old and am will to give it a try.

    Michael, are you planning on a X-Factor type online podcast like Idolonies?

  15. pt says:

    cheryl cole!!! im still not happy that we get nicole scherzy instead of her, ugh.

  16. Lili says:

    If the guy on 1:17 can sing he will win the whole thing!

  17. Brigette says:

    If Paula and Simon hadn’t been sitting there, I would have thought I was watching America’s Got Talent. Lots of forced emotion, forced drama, forced EVERYTHING. Neither of the performers were *that* good, and Simon is crazy if he thinks Stacy is the best audition he’s ever heard. I was just shaking my head the whole time I was watching, like WTF. Why does this exist? Not watching it. Looking forward to Idol in January.

  18. Mic says:

    Kinda feeling bad, ’cause when Stacy started singing, I was wracking my brain trying to figure out which Kelly Clarkson song that was. -.-

  19. brandy says:

    This show will only be enjoyable if there is an Idoloonies-esque weekly web show starring Slezak to get us through it!

  20. John says:

    A couple of things bothered me:

    -Overrated singers being treated like the Holy Grail – I won’t argue against either’s talent, but they weren’t amazing either.

    -The way the show is shot – It feels like a dramedy about a reality show. You don’t shoot reality shows the way you shoot procedural dramas, but that’s how it felt.

    -Milking the emotion on the way out – Can you say “staged?”

    Don’t get me wrong…I love the UK version, but I can just watch the vocals here in the US and skip the drama and sob stories. I don’t know if it will sell like Simon thinks it will.

  21. Saulo says:

    If they are smart, they’ll cut all the crap forced emotional stories. They (UK version) usually don’t show people in their houses or cities as Idol does. The contestants are filmed telling their stories an that’s all folks.

    Unfortunately, most people are atracted to that. They haven’t a superstar from the show yet, someone who can showcase what TXF can do for your career. They have to sell this life-changing feeling, ordinary people turned into superstars thing… and the emotional manipulation is the way they try to sell that. But the show is not as emotional (or annoying, as I’m used to say) as American Idol sometimes is.

    I’m a huge fan of the UK version (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_wOnVbDtdg) so my expectation for the American are very very high. I think they made a huge mistake by letting Cheryl Cole go. I’m the biggest reality junkie, you can’t even imagine how many realities I watch, from several countries, and I’m sure there’s no TV personality more incredible than Cheryl Cole. She is SO MUCH better than Simon.

  22. Ann says:

    This shows is definitely gonna be EPIC! I’m already in love with it. What’s great is that this show is nothing like American Idol or The Voice. The Judges are much more involved in it, in the sense that they will not only me mentoring, picking songs for the contestants etc, but will also be in competition with each other. :) I am gonna enjoy watching Simon and Paula go at it. Have missed them.

  23. SL says:

    I am so emotionally manipulated right now…

  24. NoreenR says:

    You know, I told myself I wasn’t got to watch it, but all it took was eight minutes of great packaging — and seeing Simon and Paula again — and I’m in!

  25. remmez says:

    Platinum Hit and The Voice FTW. This i really won’t watch.. To much drama to little good music or singers. Thanks, but no thanks.

  26. NanCeE* says:

    First of all, my deepest condolences to you, Mr. Slezak, for having to watch and then recap Bachelor Pad. Really. Sincerely. Second, I am pre-loathing all of the inevitable producer pimping of the 13 year old. She is adorable and I’m already rooting for her, but you know they’re not going to be able to resist pimping her at a disgusting rate. The lady who needs waterproof mascara – very Patti LaBelle, liked her, but best audition ever?? Definitely looking forward to the new show. Are we going to have some sort of X-Factory video series ala Idoloonies? Please say yes?

  27. Katy says:

    I’m from the Uk and our version of TXF is the ONLY reality Tv show I watch – i actually HATE reality TV, but I adore TXF. However, trust me when i say our version plays on the sob stories in a BIG way – it’s kinda ridiculous actually! And it does tend to focus on a select few auditions each week more than others, but that’s not a guarantee that they will make the live shows. As tp difference to Idol, in our show, the judges don’t know which group they’ll be mentoring. They yes auditions go throgh to boot camp where they are whittled down and down until there are only 6 contestants from each group (boy, girls, groups & overs). At this point the judges THEN find out which catergory they’ll be mentoring – they don’t know until it’s all been finalised. Then these last 6 sets in each group then go to the next stage – one of the more exciting bits – the judges houses. They go and audition in the judges actual houses and the judges bring one celeb pal to help them choose who goes through to the live shows. It is very competative, with ecah judge rooting for they’re own contestants to win – and they can get very bitchy about their vivals – all in teh name of fun of course but they all want to win – badly! That’s what makes it so entertaining! It’s very different from Idol for these main reasons and it took over our pop idol when it launched over here. It’s good fun and will probably seem like quite a breath of fresh air if you’ve never seen it. I have to admit, we’ve lost 3 of our 4 judges this year and while the new guys are Ok I’m missing Simon like crazy – didn’t realsie how much til i just saw this!!!!! Don’t write this show off until you’ve given it a chance, it could surprise you!

  28. goo girl says:

    Staged is right…..Stacy, the older singer used to be with 90’s girl group X-girlfriend was signed to warner bros I think….. had a couple of billboard r&b hits and she has also been on broadway not exactly a undiscovered talent.

  29. Faz says:

    As I wrote in comments from a different column — that preview was awful. Overly emotional (to the point of silliness) — and what was worse — really bad singing. Really bad singing that was applauded as if was fantastic. The girl singing Mercy — not good — if that was at your neighborhood school you might think it was good. But for a national competition — no. And the 42 year old hurt my ears.

    Doesn’t bode well.