'The X Factor' judges: A dangerous occupation?

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Image Credit: Fox

Talk about a brutal competition: Reports have surfaced claiming the two female judges on The X Factor have received death threats in the wake of Drew Ryniewicz’s ouster on Thursday.

Angry fans apparently used Twitter to express their rage over the teen’s elimination, posting expletive-fueled comments about Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger. Mentored by Simon Cowell, Ryniewicz was forced to sing for her life opposite Marcus Canty on Thursday, but ended up delivering a heartbreakingly poor performance of Roxette’s “Listen to Your Heart.” She became the second contestant to leave Fox’s freshman competition show.

Ryniewicz told reporters after Thursday’s show that “I knew something was not going to go the way that it should.” She wondered whether her faith (she’s a devout Christian) may have worked against her.  “I understand that people’s beliefs can make a huge wall and make people not want to vote for them,” she told reporters. “And so I’ve gone on with this competition not hiding my belief, but I’m not shoving it down anybody’s throat. I had this whole thing planned out for the finale to show that I haven’t changed and nothing can change me as a person. No matter if they agreed with my beliefs or not, I wanted them to see that who I am as person will never, ever change, and didn’t change through the whole process.”

Fox did not comment on the matter.

The harsh reality of reality TV is that unscripted shows often invite death threats from irrational fans. Earlier this year, a mom on TLC’s Toddlers and Tiaras allegedly received death threats after dressing her 3-year-old daughter in provocative clothing. Last summer, the family of CBS’ Big Brother contestant Shelly Moore supposedly endured bullying after she helped to evict fan-favorite Jeff Schroeder. And MTV has apparently received threats for simply airing Jersey Shore.

But reality shows — especially those that use judges — can make for great TV when they don’t follow a script. During this season of Dancing With the Stars, tough criticism from Len Goodman threw pro Maksim Chermovskiy into a tailspin and led him to make hilarious claims that “this is my show.” (Goodman commented that Chermovskiy and partner Hope Solo performed their worst dance of the season). ”Our judges have the toughest job on TV because they have to make that assessment in like, 30 seconds, and put down their scores,” DWTS exec producer Conrad Green told EW at the time. ”It’s not a perfect science. But I think all of these guys do try very hard because, at the end of the day, it’s their reputations on the line.”

In fact, Goodman was just doing his job and following in a long line of provocative judges that have helped to set certain shows apart. (Be honest: How much are you still missing Simon Cowell on American Idol?)  ”If you don’t have controversy in these shows, you’re not doing something right,” Fox’s head of reality programming, Mike Darnell, told EW. ”They should be interesting, and the judges should be opinionated. That’s part of what makes these shows tick.”

For more:
Reality TV: Judging the judges

Annie Barrett’s recap of The X Factor


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