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X’ed Out! Can Simon Cowell’s House Cleaning Save The X Factor?

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Call it Rachel Crow’s revenge. (Or, if you prefer, Drew Ryniewicz’s.) After a first season of decent but not blockbuster-sized ratings, reports came out Monday that Simon Cowell had pulled a triple elimination on The X Factor, firing judges Paula Abdul (again!) and Nicole Scherzinger as well as host Steve Jones. (Fox has officially announced the latter two departures, but multiple outlets are reporting Abdul’s ouster as well.)

Each of the defenestrated stars had their critics in the show’s first US season—from the get-go, I was put off by Jones’ chilly TV-presenter style, Scherzinger was a judge who seem to resist, well, judging, and while Paula got her American Idol incoherence under control, it felt like some of her on-air personality went with it. But really, are The X Factor’s problems ones that can be fixed with a personnel change, or do they go deeper?

My first, cynical reaction was that the best way to help X Factor would be to call it American Idol and move it to January—that is, that it was just a redundant show on Fox. But if there’s room enough for another big singing competition (The Voice) in the same season as Idol, surely there is on the same network in the fall.

The problem, indeed, may be that X Factor is distinguished too much from Idol, or at least that the ways it differs most from Idol are not, for the US audience, improvements. I was not a regular X Factor viewer last fall—I gave it a shot early but was turned off by all the bombast and pyrotechnics—but from what I saw, I got more of an America’s Got Talent vibe from the show: that is, it played and felt like a talent show, not (as Idol does) as a search for a recording star. I also wonder if the producers might want to reconsider the group category, which may just not be of as much interest here as it is on the hit British version.

But as I say, I’m not the main target audience. (All I know is, I hope Scherzinger doesn’t try to get her old The Sing-Off job back. Sara Bareilles forever!) So if you’re an X Factor viewer (or disappointed former viewer), what would it take to get you back?