Surprise! Not! Britney Spears is ankling "The X Factor," TMZ is reporting — and which, by the way, I believe one hundred thousand percent. (Is there such a percentage? Whatever — I'm off topic already.)
Why do I believe this so wholeheartedly? Not that Brit was a terrible judge — she wasn't. More "meh" than "wow" — but not terrible. Not that she didn't know talent when she saw it — she did and there was some this season on the show, in fact. Not that she couldn't cue to the tears when she had to — she could. They even looked real. Not that she didn't even cut a particularly interesting sartorial presence — she did, and compared to Simon's T shirts, anyone is going to cut an interesting sartorial presence.
No: She is leaving because "Factor" was hurting her music career, or what is apparently left of it. The show's ratings were terrible this year. Terrible! They sank even from Paula's ill-fated turn! This said to Britney and her management team, that she was stuck on a ship taking on water, and a lot of H2O. Nothing hurts a career like implied failure, or the association with implied failure. She has a new record to put out. She has a career to rehab. But by sticking with a series that is sinking only says to fans — she too is sinking.
L.A. Reid is already gone. He got the message.
And that, my friends, is how show business works.
Simon has some big challenges before him, needless to say. Notably the sober realization that no matter how big the name, how famous the person, how incredible the career, it makes next to no impact on ratings. It's something Mariah Carey may want to take heed of, too.
This judging arms race among talent shows has been extremely counterproductive — shows pay a fortune, a vast fortune, for the judges, and said shows suddenly forget what their reason for being was in the first place, namely to find a big talent who can sell music.
Could "The Voice" have had the same success without its famed threesome — none of whom are on the level of super-star-y-ness of Carey or Britney Spears? I think so — and the format has proved hugely successful overseas (notably Holland) with judging names you've never heard of or ever will.
So fare-thee-well, Britney. And next!
Pictured above: "X Factor" judge Britney Spears appears at a season finale news conference at CBS Television City in Los Angeles. (Dec. 17, 2012)