"The X Factor" executive producer Simon Cowell has responded to viewer criticism that the show's new "chair challenge" is cruel to contestants who are told that they've made it to the next round, only to be eliminated and replaced by another contestant if a judge on the show changes his or her mind. According to Yahoo! Music's Reality Rocks blog, Cowell defended the fickle nature of the chair challenge when he was interviewed at an "X Factor" press event in Los Angeles on Sept. 30, 2013.
The third season of "The X Factor" U.S. had a two-part premiere on Fox on Sept. 11 and Sept. 12, 2013. The show's judges this year are Cowell, Kelly Rowland, Demi Lovato and Paulina Rubio.
As previously reported, "The X Factor" U.S. eliminated the "boot camp" and "judges' houses" phases of the competition in 2013. The "boot camp" and "judges' houses" phases of the competition were replaced by a Four-Chair Challenge that was first used in the Dutch version of "The X Factor."
As previously reported, those "Four-Chair Challenge" episodes were recorded on Sept. 8 and Sept. 9, 2013 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Admission was free and open to the public. Fox is televising these episodes on Oct. 2, Oct. 3, Oct. 9 and Oct. 10, 2013.
In "boot camp," about 100 contestant acts were narrowed down to 32.
During "judges houses," the 32 contestant acts would be separated into certain categories, and each category would be assigned a judge as a mentor. The contestants would stay at a luxury house to prepare for their performances in front of their mentor/judge and a celebrity guest mentor. The judge, with assistance from the celebrity guest mentor, would then decide which contestants to eliminate and which contestants to keep in the competition.
"The X Factor" U.S. four contestant categories in 2013 are:
- Girls (female solo singers ages 12 to 24), mentored by Demi Lovato
- Boys (male solo singers ages 12 to 24), mentored by Paulina Rubio
- Over 25s (solo singers ages 25 and over), mentored by Kelly Rowland
- Groups, mentored by Simon Cowell
In the "Four-Chair Challenge" episodes, 40 contestant acts (10 from each category) perform for the judges. The judge who is mentoring the category chooses which contestants will be the final four in that category.
The Four-Chair Challenge involved four contestants from each category being put in chairs if the judges decided they were worthy enough to possibly be the final four in that category. However, judges were allowed to change their minds and switch out or switch in contestants from their mentor categories. After all 10 contestant acts in each category perform, the four contestants remaining in the chairs are the ones who will go on to the next round: performing in the live episodes.
The 16 contestant acts (four from each category) who make it to the live episodes are then voted on by the public.
The contestants are told in advance that they could be suddenly replaced or eliminated during these chair challenges, but many viewers have still bashed the process because it inevitably sets up some contestants to believe that they've made it to the next round only to have that accomplishment taken away from them. Many viewers have compared it to what it would feel like to be given a gift and then having that gift cruelly taken away and given to someone else because you are told that you are not good enough. Critics of "The X Factor" chair challenges say that these chair challenges do not add any real entertainment value to the show because these chair challenges are too manipulative and make the judges look indecisive and unsympathetic when they change their minds.
Cowell explained in a September 2013 interview Yahoo! Music/Reality Rocks interview when he talked about "The X Factor" U.S's Four-Chair Challenge: "I thought it was spectacular television; it was really dramatic, very exciting, and you got to know the contestants better. I think the audience will like it, I really do."
In the interview, Cowell also responded to criticism and complaints from several contestants, including Panda Ross, who were suddenly eliminated at boot camp in 2013 without getting a chance to perform for the judges. He said of the decision to remove boot camp from the show: "It wasn't last-minute. Everyone was flown in because we deliberated while they were there. We went through all the tapes. It was similar to what we do over at 'Britain's Got Talent'; we've always done it that way, and it's worked well for us.
"I get the fact that certain people probably felt disappointed that they couldn't have a second chance, but then again, 40 people were selected, which is still quite a lot of people. I can understand why they're pissed off, but I know we chose the right people."
"The X Factor" in the U.K. also had a controversial chair challenge that was introduced in 2013. It was a Six-Chair Challenge, in which six contestants from each category were selected from boot camp to go on to judges' houses. Some of the contestants who were told that they made it into the chosen six were eliminated and replaced by other contestants in the category if a judge changed his or her mind. At the end of the chair-challenge episodes, the "real" final six in each category were announced.
At "The X Factor" press event on Sept. 30, 2013, Cowell defended "The X Factor" chair challenges by saying: "That's the way it goes! Any show I've ever done, when people are eliminated, you have problems. So anyone who's selected to go into this part of the competition, they've got to have a bit of backbone, and they know what the rules are ...
"There is a lot of drama in it, but I think if you don't have drama in these shows, they don't work. [The Four-Chair Challenge] got a bit of criticism overseas that it was too mean. I don't think it was too mean. The overall the audience seemed to really like it over there, and I think they'll like it here.
"I think if we were deliberately being mean to people, people would see through that, but we're not. It's just drama. Personally, I couldn't watch one of these shows without a little bit of friction. Otherwise like it would be like watching 'Star Search' all over again. I like to see something a little bit more edgy, and I think reality TV needs to be tense."
The Reality Rocks article mentioned that Cowell's pregnant girlfriend Lauren Silverman was by Cowell's side during this press event. Since she has no experience in the entertainment industry and does not work for "The X Factor," the only logical reason for her to be there is for PR/image reasons to show that Cowell is "serious" about being a family man.
It's too late. Much of the public and TV viewing audience have turned against Cowell for the adulterous circumstances under which Cowell got Silverman pregnant. I have already reported that there is a huge public backlash against Cowell because he had an affair with Lauren Silverman, the wife of his close friend Andrew Silverman. She is now pregnant with Cowell's first child and is due to give birth in February 2014. Lauren and Andrew Silverman (who have a 7-year-old son named Adam) got divorced in August 2013, about one month after the pregnancy made the news. In divorce papers, Andrew Silverman cited Lauren's adulterous affair with Cowell as the reason for the divorce.
People are repulsed that Cowell is very unapologetic about having an affair with a close friend's wife, getting her pregnant, destroying a marriage, and leaving an innocent child like Adam Silverman with a broken home. People are also placing equal blame on Lauren Silverman for the adulterous affair, but she is not the one doing interviews in which she acts if she did nothing wrong. Cowell is the one who's the public figure in the relationship, and he is the one who has been shamelessly gloating/smirking in the media about how he got Lauren Silverman pregnant. No matter how much Cowell wants to hype "The X Factor" as "exciting" television, how he has conducted himself in the Silverman affair has seriously damaged his image, and people have lost a lot of respect for him.
As I've said before, any changes to "The X Factor" U.S. aren't not going to help the show's downward spiral in the ratings. Many viewers are saying that they are sick of Cowell and his antics on screen and off screen.
Here is a sampling of comments on Yahoo! Music in response to Cowell's defense of "The X Factor" chair challenges:
"I prefer to watch "The Voice" for the reason cited in the article "cute and cuddly" where people are treated with respect judges and contestants alike. The world is a mean enough place and I don't like watching meaness on TV."
"It makes it easy becausee there are no bad singers on the Voice. Some are better tjhan others of course, but all of them can sing. X Factor and American Idol both feature bad singers on purpose so they can make fun of them."
"....when asked how much the banshee-shrieking audience members affected the judges' casting decisions, he revealed, "Quite a bit. You couldn't ignore them." Really?...." That's hilarious since the "screamers" are told to do so by the director. Known as the 'swaybots' (because of the ridiculous arm waving everytime someone sings a slow song) they are always the prettiest girls in the audience who are selected to sit in the front row in exchange for screaming their fool heads off on cue. (Every musical show or music awards show has them. X Factor just abuses the concept) Add to that the director mixes the screaming into the soundtrack even when the judges are talking. That is completely fake because you can hear screaming but you see them sitting quietly and politely duirng the talking.
"The one element The Voice has over ALL other like shows is class! The coaches are genuinely interested in the singers, and even when they don't turn a chair, they are uplifting and encouraging with their comments. The music industry is full of heartbreak, why break hearts on national television?"
"Simon should watch and LEARN from 'The Voice'."
"They'll do anything for the sake of ratings."
"I watched this show for all of ten minutes last season. The screeching audience and Kloe's stumbling host-attempt were too much to stomach. Tone that audience down and fire the people encouraging them to act that way for the cameras."
"I was there for that taping and the audience was coached on when to scream and what finger to hold up. I also witnessed some drama. The cutie, Timmy Thameas was put into a chair then Simon says he knows him mom and is friends with her. They then brought Tim back and then Timmy was replaced by Josh. Of course Timmy couldn't continue in the competition IF Simon really is friends with his mom. Poor kid was humiliated on stage. Hope they don't use that talented boy as their "drama". That's nasty tv"
"Is this the shark for Simon?"
"I love the X Factor . I've given up on Idol- can't stand JLo. Nor can I stand Christina. But I'll watch the Voice again when usher and Shakira come back!"
"Who watches this sh-t!"
"They trying to make a lot of drama the four chair Challenge when is not, Every singer from each category will sing and get a critic but their mentor will decide, chair or not chair , the 4 first singers all will get a chair but the fifth singer if the mentor thinks is better than the ones in a chair it will be replaced by that singer and so on until all the 10 contestants for category sing, at the en the 4 contestants at the en will be te ones advancing to the next round. that's when they show people screaming on the audience.":
"Inside Simons head......'you are a God! you are beautiful and you are manly more than any other man on earth! the show is all about you! every woman in the world must have you because you are just that great!' ......what a freakin clown! wouldnt watch ANYTHING he is involved with if you paid me a million bucks! what a #$%$ sperm giver!"
"Time for Simon to head back across the pond."
"This is how it works in the music biz. Voice is too softball IMO!"
"As far as I am concerned they really haven't picked a whole lot of talent""
"For the first time ever simon where are you coming from?..........the voice is hands down a pleasure to watch!!! i have always thought of simon as a plus in this judging thing.....hope he doesnt really think that disrespect is ok...its not! x factor starts that bunch of niki mirah randy mess ....and i will not watch it just as i quit idol!!! many will follow with me think about that.....just ask americian idol!"
"Give it up, Simon...you are old news...."
"In season one Simon dumped Melanie Amaro from his team, then realized his 'horrible mistake' and went to her house and brought her back. She of course went on to win then melt into obscurity. The event was completely staged. Then they have the nerve to pull the same thing again with Diamond White in season two! (dumped her...felt bad...brought her back). Again, COMPLETELY FAKE! Just trying to create drama. They must really think viewers are stupid. I am just waiting to see if they do it a 3rd time. One of MANY reasons I hate this show."
"The X-Factor US has failed to capture a strong audience. The constant switching of judges has not helped. Fox needs to cancel the failed singing competition show and concentrate on the "American Idol" brand."