It was the premiere you/we/I (choose one) have been dying for since Lee DeWyze croaked out “Beautiful Day” and ended Simon Cowell’s American Idol tenure back in May 2010. Yes, folks, The X Factor finally reached U.S. shores Wednesday night, and over the course of its two-hour maiden voyage, I counted at least a half-dozen acts who, on first impression, looked like they had a legitimate chance at the $5 million prize — and not one of whom left Paula Abdul flushing out her eyes and rinsing bile from her mouth in a tiny backstage bathroom, either.
Using a complicated mathematical formula, that breaks down to approximately three seriously promising auditions per hour — a ratio that’s even more impressive when you add the roar of an enthusiastic audience and extreme closeups of Nicole Scherzinger’s quivering/immaculately glossed lower lip. Okay, yeah, so a few of X Factor‘s Big Emotional Moments were more carefully orchestrated than a Justin Bieber-Selena Gomez photo op. And yes, I’d rather have spent a month watching Live to Dance reruns than witness that scraggly guy dropping trou and singing “I’m a stud.” But at the heart of it all, Simon Cowell understands that you’re not going to stir souls, activate tear ducts, and convince 20 million people to surrender their Wednesday and Thursday nights without the siren lure of great, undiscovered voices. And that’s exactly what he did.
My Episode 1 favorites included Rachel Crow, who grounded my disdain for under-16 contestants with a scorching rendition of “Mercy”; Marcus Canty, the 20-year-old lawn mower who delivered uptempo Stevie Wonder with a side of funky dancing; sassy, polarizing Simone Battle (pictured); and to my surprise, “Young Homie” Chris Rene. (Still prefer Leneshe Young’s “Nati,” for the record.) (And in the a.m., we’ll need to discuss the ethical quandaries of advancing a guy who’s just out of rehab and admittedly only 70 days sober.) Lastly, even though I thought she kinda oversang her Artetha Franklin ditty, Stacy Francis got me choked up (just like she did when I watched that extended X Factor preview last week).
I’ll post my full episode recap early Thursday morning right here at TVLine.com, but until then, take our poll and tell us who gave your favorite audition, then hit the comments with your initial X Factor impressions. And for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!