The first season of The X Factor arrived with wild-eyed ambitions. Boy-band fabricator and devourer of karaoke worlds Simon Cowell promised to extinguish American Idol’s Nielsen sun with a highly refined sonic death ray imported from his homeland. It did not work out that way.
The second season of The X Factor arrived with Britney Spears, and with renewed promises that hey, we're serious here, this time we got it. Watch out, Idol. We're coming for you, dawg. Maybe double-check the lock on the front door, we'll waltz right in and rearrange your throw pillows. You don't know what Britney is capable of, she really doesn't like your pillows. The Earth spun on. Britney never even touched the pillows.
The third season of The X Factor arrived last night, with no discernible fanfare and much-diminished ambitions; we suppose that if you'd pressed your ear to the railroad track in the hours before its debut, you may have felt some gentle vibrations on your cheek as the wheezing locomotive somewhere in the distance sputtered its way toward you, dragging behind it several forgettable months' worth of prime-time schedule filler. But you probably didn't bother; it's pretty hard to get excited for the reboot of the country's third-most-popular televised singing competition. You're over it; we're all over it. Whither the spinny chairs? Not here. That's the other one. That's the one that a few people seem to care about, sort of, to the extent that people still care about such things.
Billy Bob Thornton has been cast as Lorne Malvo in FX's Fargo miniseries, a character The Hollywood Reporter compares to Steve Buscemi's Carl Showalter in the original film. FX's plot and characters don't hail from the 1996 Coen brothers masterpiece, save, thankfully, for that trademark "Minnesota nice." Fargo marks Thornton's first regular TV gig since the '90s, when he starred in Hearts Afire and The Outsiders, but I'll always remember him from a guest stint on Catdog.
After The Voice crowned its fourth-season winner, 16-year-old Danielle Bradbery — the third Team Blake victor — a hush fell over the nation. American Idol doesn’t start auditioning its 13th season until July, and The X Factor, revamped with two new judges and minus a Kardashian, is holding its breath until the fall. It’s a reflective time: The Voice finale pulled 15.3 million pairs of eyeballs (crushing the most recent Idol season finale by a cool million), but just because it managed to do well doesn’t mean we can’t do better. It’s been 11 years since Idol premiered, and though The Voice has managed to push the singing-show genre evolution a few inches toward Tomorrowland with invested mentors, the fresh gimmick of blind auditions, and playful, campy performances (cough, cough), it still occasionally smacks of something dusty and grandpa-like. We may have arrived at an era that requires “social media correspondents,” but the current incarnation of this position seems poised to appear in a future BuzzFeed list of embarrassing vintage relics. The time is ripe for a dramatic chord progression, a giant leap.
Hour for programming hour, Mike Darnell may be the most intelligent, imaginative, and beguiling purveyor of television shit who’s ever lived. Darnell’s exit as head of “alternative entertainment” for the Fox network, announced last Friday, isn’t so much the end of an era as an occasion to take stock of a man who altered television every bit as much as any producer of adventurous TV. Over the past two decades, Darnell, 51, has proven to be the grotty Grant Tinker; the David E. Kelley of kitsch; the Matthew Weiner of wince.
As ubiquitous as Will.i.am may seem, he hasn't been a part of the central pop conversation in the past year or two the way a Ke$ha or a Drake has been — it's been four years since "Boom Boom Pow" and "I Gotta Feeling" were the aural wallpaper du jour. But then again, neither has Britney Spears. In terms of sales and longevity, both are legitimate pop icons, but in 2013 both are probably more well known for their participation in reality singing competitions; they have now achieved "mentor" status, somehow. Fitting that that was where "Scream and Shout" made its debut last month, despite the general lack of what can actually be called singing. I wrote about it briefly in the recap for the X Factor episode it premiered on; I believe my overall first impression was that it made me deeply depressed about the direction our society is headed. I would like to amend that statement right now: This song sounds like at least one of the directions our society is headed in, and it is both depressing and kind of cool. Which qualifies it as cyberpunk, I think?
For reasons still not entirely clear to them, Grantland editors Jay Caspian Kang, Mark Lisanti, and Emily Yoshida have decided to track the second season of The X Factor. The big purple spaceship finally crashed across the finish line last night. Here’s the report from the wreckage.
As the Grantland staff looks back this week on the highlights of the year in music, TV, film, and sports, we would obviously be remiss if we left out the one medium to rule them all: the Internet. Here are our picks for the best (and worst) of the Information Superhighway in 2012.
For reasons still not entirely clear to them, Grantland editors Jay Caspian Kang, Mark Lisanti, and Emily Yoshida have decided to track the second season of The X Factor. It's not an abusive relationship, it's just a very complicated one.
Last night, America’s third-favorite singing competition dragged itself to the Final Six. For the first time this season, YOU, America, had the opportunity to pick one of the contestants' songs in the Pepsi Viewers' Choice Supermax Dragon Fire Contest. Well, America, on a night when 4Chan trolls could have forced Tate Stevens to sing 2 Live Crew’s “Pop That Coochie,” you somehow out-boringed the show’s producers, who seem to believe that the best way to improve “music” is to glue sparkly shit onto everything. The X Factor has become pretty hard to watch as of late, and sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, think back on the literary ambitions of my youth, and start sharpening the ends of random Q-tips in the hopes that maybe one day there will be an earthquake here in Los Angeles and tectonic force will just take care of what I can’t do myself.
For reasons still not entirely clear to them, Grantland editors Jay Caspian Kang, Mark Lisanti, and Emily Yoshida have decided to track the second season of The X Factor. It's their favorite singing competition show ever — don't let the deadness in their eyes fool you.
Carly Rose Sonenclar
Kang: I can’t really figure out a good anagram for her name. Every time I look at those letters, I just get COORS and RACECAR (a palindrome!). If she had another E in there somewhere, she actually could have CeCe Frey IN her name. Petition to make it Carles Rose Sonenclar?
For reasons still not entirely clear to them, Grantland editors Jay Caspian Kang, Mark Lisanti, and Emily Yoshida have decided to track the second season of The X Factor. Come, stay a while. They aren't going anywhere; there are still some off-key versions of Celine Dion songs they haven't heard.
It was “diva" week on The X Factor, a word we are all too familiar with here at Grantland. And because we have already determined that none of these contestants can reach those grand heights, I will be rating the chosen contestants this week based on just how badly they butchered their Diva moment. — Kang
For reasons still not entirely clear to them, Grantland editors Jay Caspian Kang, Mark Lisanti, and Emily Yoshida have decided to track the second season of The X Factor. Yes, they get paid for this, but someone also pays the people who scrape skull fragments from the walls at murder scenes.
For reasons still not entirely clear to them, Grantland editors Jay Caspian Kang, Mark Lisanti, and Emily Yoshida have decided to track the second season of The X Factor. Take their hands as they escort you to a magical world of singing, dancing, and laughter, and then leave you to die there, just as they did.
Kang: I don’t remember much of his performance because I ate a grip of M&Ms last night and an entire Reuben, both of which put me on the brink of a food coma. What I do remember about the beginning of the show was that all the girls had done something absolutely insane with their hair. Fox, you can trot out ZoZo to sing the national anthem at the World Series to cross-promote New Girl, but do you really have to give everyone on The X Factor her haircut? Poor Jennel Garcia looked like someone had taken to her head with a weedwacker and then opened up that weedwacker’s oil tank and dumped it on her head. Demi, who had wowed us with her mermaid hair, now looks like Punky Brewster.
For reasons still not entirely clear to them, Grantland editors Jay Caspian Kang, Mark Lisanti, and Emily Yoshida have decided to track the second season of The X Factor. This is where things get hairy. You're going to tell your kids about this one. (You are not going to tell your kids about this one.)
Last night, on the October 23rd of our Lord, we finally reached the edge of the tundra. How many frozen bodies we left behind atop the frozen ground without the decency of a good Christian burial! How many strong horses we lost to the unrelenting snows! Only 16 soldiers lived through the ordeal.
Almost from the start, Homeland seemed like a one-season premise, a more grounded kind of American Horror Story that could deliver some satisfying, thought-provoking thrills for a few weeks before flitting off to TV heaven and happily cementing its status as an all-time classic. Of course, Homeland was a critical and ratings success, and picked up six Emmys (including Outstanding Drama) for its freshman season, so unsurprisingly, Showtime demanded seconds. And now, equally unsurprisingly, thirds: The channel has announced that Season 3 of Homeland will begin filming this coming spring.
This is great news if you like Homeland, and somewhat concerning news if you like Homeland. The show has already been drastically resetting its board each week during the twist-heavy second season, but the most recent episode jumped past a season's worth of potential suspense and deliberation for what seems like a game-ender. How can Homeland possibly continue to be a Carrie/Brody-centric drama in 2013? Even though we're fairly certain executive producers Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon have an answer to that question, we thought we'd offer a few carefully considered suggestions.
For reasons still not entirely clear to them, Grantland editors Jay Caspian Kang, Mark Lisanti, and Emily Yoshida have decided to track the second season of The X Factor. Like Monet, Van Gogh, and so many great minds before them, the importance of their work will not be recognized until long after they’ve left this world, but there will be at least one straight–to–On Demand biopic once it is.
Last night The X Factor’s Cliffside Concert Series continued with the Over 25s and the Under 16s serenading L.A. Reid and Britney Spears, respectively, with glacial-tempo, plodding-piano-ballad versions of your favorite Nicki Minaj dance floor hits. (The location of Cliffside Concert Series was chosen for its convenient proximity to where you might want to throw your body after said performances.) Will.I.Am and Justin Bieber’s sunglasses were on hand to help steer the course of these people’s lives, and your passionate X Factor correspondents were on hand to document this pivotal point in America’s 16th Major Sport and Second-Favorite Nationally Broadcast Singing Competition. — Yoshida