Tonight’s the big night for “The X Factor.” It’s the season two premiere and the debut of Britney Spears and Demi Lovato at the judges’ table, right next to returning favorites Simon Cowell and L.A. Reid.
But last night FOX held a world premiere screening of the first episode at Hollywood’s Chinese Theater, and all the judges were on hand afterward for an audience Q&A. If the crowd at the Chinese is any indication, there’s plenty of excitement for the show’s return, especially the new judges. The screams for Demi were loud, and the screams for Britney were deafening, throughout both the screening and the Q&A.
Even better news: the premiere episode is rock solid reality TV. Slick, well produced, funny and moving in all the right places, it immediately establishes season two as a bigger, better “X Factor.”
Without getting too spoiler-y, here are the top five things to look for in tonight’s premiere:
1) To see Britney and Demi overcome their nerves
Day one of judging auditions wasn’t easy for either Spears or Lovato. They feel the pressure and their nerves are on full display in an on screen conversation Britney has with her manager, and a playful interaction backstage between Simon and Demi. Ever the supportive type, Cowell assures Lovato there’s nothing to worry about. The worst that could happen is she’d do a terrible job and completely end her career. Thanks, Simon!
2) The judges actually have chemistry, and work well together
Once the auditions start up, there’s almost no worries about how the judging quartet will fare. They may be a bizarre sight together (two older men, two younger women, all with seemingly little in common), but chemistry is a weird and unpredictable thing, and these four have it. There’s no awkwardness, no feeling from any of the four that they’d rather be anywhere else, and Simon is noticeably more relaxed. He doesn’t look worried about carrying the show on his back, he’s got Britney now. “If I’m comfortable with someone it means I can argue with them and laugh with them,” Cowell said at the Q&A. “And I’m always going to be comfortable with both these girls.”
3) There’s more drama both on and off the stage
Audition shows are usually all about the performances, sprinkled with a few fancy packages that either explore a hopeful’s personal life (maybe a relative died or is dying, or they’ve got adorable kids at home to support) or make it clear just how weird they are. But “The X Factor” takes it a step further with fly on the wall footage from the audition waiting rooms and backstage. We actually get to see various hopefuls interact, and there’s no annoying host to step in and spoil the fun.
“We’ve been making these shows for 10 or 11 years and we’ve always seen them told in the same ways,” Cowell explained at the Q&A. “I was curious as a viewer, ‘Is there competitiveness between the contestants?’ We allowed you the viewers to see something you’ve never seen before. And we deliberately didn’t add a voiceover to tell you how to feel. It’s almost like a documentary.”
4) Britney isn’t afraid to get critical
The first time we see Britney react to a bad audition, she’s practically in shock. But it doesn’t take long for Spears to step it up and unleash her thoughts on the people on stage. One of the premiere episode’s highlights is a snappy montage of Spears’ put-downs: some gentle, some not so much. She’s definitely not taking the Paula Abdul “Good job! Nice try!” route.
At the Q&A, her fellow judges were full of compliments. “I think it was a pleasant surprise,” Reid noted, before turning to Spears directly and adding: “You were incredible.”
Lovato chimed in, “She’s hilarious, right?”
And Cowell slyly proclaimed, “As I said, [Britney is] the new queen of mean.”
5) There’s a blast from Britney’s past
Some information about this one leaked out when the auditions were filmed over the summer, but one of the “X Factor” hopefuls has a special connection to Spears. And their dramatic reunion is one of the premiere episode’s many watercooler moments. We won’t spoil what happens, but we will say the audience at the screening got awfully quiet during this part.
Are you planning to watch Britney, Simon, Demi and L.A. on “The X Factor” premiere?