Tonight's the big night: "The X Factor" night and the return of one Simon Cowell and one Paula Abdul and one fabulous entertainment that is guaranteed to make them even more millions.
Bottom line: It is indeed very entertaining ... but it's also manipulative and highly highly produced. Nothing seems left to chance; everything seems scripted, most notably the judges' deliberations, which seem effortless in a studied way.
It's great to see Simon back in business, but he seems different -- how to put this? He seems somewhat more politic, somewhat ... oh gawd help us ... nicer. I'm reminded of that great quote from that classic 20th Century Fox flick, "Laura," where the theater critic tells Gene Tierney, "I'm not nice; I'm vicious. That's the secret of my charm." And so, too, is that the secret of Simon's charm, but here he feels a little bit more like Louis B. Mayer, absent the brutality: Somewhat distant and imperious. Yes, he is in the star-making biz, but you sense that this venture had better work, or else. He is not spontaneous.
Will it work? I saw the entire 97-minute premiere and feel confident that the answer is "yes." But it will not be a huge hit.
"X" drifts perilously close in format to "America's Got Talent," and I wouldn't be surprised if some of these contestants did their thing for "AGT," too. There's a whole class of semiprofessional wannabes who drift from show to show. It's inconceivable they didn't drift to this one.
That said, "X" does a very good job of packaging the goods, even if they are used. It's a head-thumping, pulsating exercise in haute TV production, where everything seems to soar -- until you get to the comic relief. Then everyone takes a breath before moving on. It's all very good in a slick sort of way, but as I say in the review, it strangely lacks "American Idol's" intimacy, or the sense that Anyone Can Make It in this crazy old world called showbiz. In other words, it may be too polished.
But see what you think: This is one of the real must-sees of the new fall season. Much is riding on it, notably Simon's ego. It's success all depends ... upon you.