The X Factor has cleaned house, eliminating judges Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger and host Steve Jones. While Jones' and Scherzinger's exits were expected, the departure of Abdul, a friend of Simon Cowell's from their American Idol days, came as a surprise
Only creator Cowell and music producer L.A. Reidremain on the judging panel of the Fox singing competition, which is slated to begin auditions for its second season this spring; no replacements were announced. Cowell issued a statement Tuesday thanking the three for their participation in the show, which crowned Melanie Amaro as its first winner in December.
"We had a lot of fun making the show together, and importantly, we found some real talent and stars. You do develop friendships with the people you work with, and Paula, in particular, is a very close friend, and I expect to be working with her on another project in the near future. I'm sure all three are going to have massive success in what they do next, but now is the time to thank them all for everything they did last year," Cowell said.
Abdul said in a statement that she had been in discussions with Cowell, Fox and producerFremantleMedia North America for a while and attributed the move to an industry where "business decisions oftentimes override personal considerations.
"Simon is, and will remain, a dear friend of mine, and I've treasured my experience working this past season with my extended family at Fox and Fremantle," she said. "I want nothing more than for The X Factor to exceed ALL of their wildest dreams."
After a first season that failed to live up to outsized ratings expectations and didn't develop the buzz many anticipated, changes were in the wind.
"I expected (Jones and Scherzinger) to go. I'm surprised about Paula, definitely. I thought Simon would hold on to her because he felt a bond with her. Although, truth be told, they never had the chemistry on X Factor that they had on Idol," says MJ Santilli, who follows those shows on MJ's Big Blog (mjsbigblog.com). "I just think Simon wants a complete reboot."
X Factor didn't make the best use of Abdul, says George Varga, pop-music critic for UT San Diego (formerly The San Diego Union-Tribune). "I think there was initial interest about the return of Paula, but I don't think the format served her very well. The unpredictability that people liked about her wasn't particularly showcased in the formatThe X Factor had her operating in," says Varga, who believes the show's problems go beyond a host and two judges.
X Factor averaged 12.6 million viewers in its first season last fall. That's a solid number, but far below the 20 million who tune into Idol, a ratings benchmark set by Cowell before the show premiered.
"To me, they were victims of their own hype," says David Scardino, entertainment specialist at ad agency RPA. "If you look at the actual numbers, it did really well as a new program. It's perceived as an underperformer because Cowell said it would doAmerican Idol-type numbers."
Santilli thinks that X Factor may seek out bigger musical names to fill the judges' panel, as NBC's The Voice did, but that the show needs to do more, from making contestants more relatable to cutting down on some of the glitz. "Making cosmetic changes and bringing on big stars is just one of the things that needs to be done."