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'The X Factor': Factor in the boy bands

THE SHOW "The X Factor"

WHEN | WHERE Season premiere tonight at 8 on Fox/5

WHAT TO EXPECT There are two new judges. Demi Lovato and Britney Spears join returning judges L.A. Reid and Simon Cowell. Nicole Scherzinger and Paula Abdul were let go after the first season. There are other changes, too.

"X" didn't just change the rule book but essentially burned it. For example, the show used to frown on anyone with a manager, but a preview reel offered an extended look at new contestant Carly Rose Sonenclar, a 13-year-old Mamaroneck resident who is (yes) managed and has extensive Broadway and TV credits to prove it. Plus, don't be too surprised if a few boy bands turn up. Meanwhile, NBC has added a third night of "The Voice" opposite "X" -- which could hurt either . . . or both.

MY SAY Just two words for all you doubters of the world who have pretty much decided talent contests like "The X Factor" are officially out of ideas, gas and mojo: One Direction. Last week's big winner at the Video Music Awards was a 2010 fabrication from the British edition and proof that there's still plenty of gold in these strip-mined hills. Sure, there's irony with One Direction -- Scherzinger was the judge who told five solo acts to band together as one, while the boys didn't even win. But so what, really: They've won now and vindicated Cowell's vision for his star factory.

But what about the U.S. edition? The preview reel shows that former teen idol Spears is now an almost matronly presence with hard eyes and loose jowls. (She's the "mean" one, Cowell promises.) Lovato's the sassy kid, pouting and spouting one-liners at Pops -- Cowell. Will these big stars bring in the viewers? There's ample evidence they won't (from JLo to Howard Stern, neither of whom turned around their respective franchises). And it's probably worth noting that these shows are -- or should be -- about finding the next superstar, not finding out what the superstar has to say about the next superstar.

BOTTOM LINE Expect the expected -- boy bands.

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