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'The X Factor' is still phony, foolish and ... fun

Judges Britney Spears, left, and Demi Lovato sign

Judges Britney Spears, left, and Demi Lovato sign their names during a handprint ceremony at "The X Factor" season two premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP) (Credit: AP)

Oh, the tears, the jeers -- the laughs, and sharp quips, and the occasional flash of talent. And, of course, I'm just talking about Britney Spears here. Otherwise, the new "X Factor" was largely the old "X Factor:" A calculated mashup of singing, totally spontaneous -- uh-huh -- judge quips,  pre-taped tear-jerker bios, the walk-to-stage-to-hug-a-contestant moment, and otherwise all the other usual slopwash that makes "The X Factor" seem really like a tarted-up version of "America's Got Talent."

 Other than that, what did I really think of the show?  Ba-dum.

 Oh, sure, OK, fine. I'll concede, there were moments, flashes, of genuine emotion and even genuine evaluation, but for the moment, I can't think of one. Were the judges good? Well, honestly, besides the fact that they are boldface names, don't YOU think you could do the same job? I mean, you're not tone-deaf -- you don't need to be a Brit to tell a lousy voice from a good one, right? 

 I'm a sucker for these shows, and yes, for The "X Factor" too, and when the ratings come out a bit later this morning, I predict Fox will tell the world that about 12 million of us were suckers last night. (Early results, by the way, indicate that "The Voice" tied "X" in the fast nationals. And by the way, make that about 8 million of us suckers; final numbers now indicating that "X" didn't crack 10 million total viewer mark and that has to be a real blow to Fox, which hoped Brit would really turn this around.)

 Let's talk the boldest of the boldfaced names for a moment: Brit, who has now been actively recast as the Nurse Ratchet, or Cruella de Vil, who slices and dices the talentless nimrods on stage; it is left then to Sweet Demi Lovato to bring the heart.

Is this a good move for Brit or viewers or anyone? It's at the very least a counterintuitive one. Who is the REAL Britney? The Britney/Ingenue/boyslaying/teenybopping/come-hither sexpot of "Oops -- I Did It Again?" and "I''m a Save for U," or the older, slinkier, playing-tongue-hockey-with-Madonna Brit of "Gimme More" and "Womanizer"?

 I don't know the answer to this important question, and not even entirely sure I care,  but last night stripped away those carefully crafted illusions forever (come to think of it, maybe that is a good thing). Check out the clip below.

But she wasn't the problem -- the format remains the problem. "X" feels like a show that works terribly hard at pretending to be spontaneous, and -- in the end -- comes out of the washing machine smelling only calculated. It's almost too highly polished, too formulaic, too manipulative. 

  Could a genuine star -- or at least a genuine sensation -- emerge from this baloney stew? I think so, I really do, and you only have to look at One Direction to realize that miracles do happen. In the meantime, we must endure the foolishness. With any luck, that, too, shall pass.  

Tags: the x factor , britney spears , simon cowell , L.A.Reid , demi lovato

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