'X Factor': Fox explains what went wrong in season 2

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Though Fox’s The X Factor performed solidly in the ratings while delivering 40 hours of programming last fall, the show struggled with the perception of failure — both critically and in terms of the show’s ratings, which declined from the first season. There’s no doubt Fox hoped for more strength from the heavily hyped show, and executives gave a couple hints Tuesday about what they thought missed the mark.

The network’s entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly, talking to critics at a Fox press event, staunchly defended the show. “I thought The X Factor was excellent this year,” he said. “Last year, the ratings were a little bit higher, but I think it was a better show this year. The talent was good. The production was good. I think some of the new elements that were added were good.”

And new judge Britney Spears? “I think Britney did a really good job,” Reilly said. “People remain fascinated with her. Maybe some people were waiting for more drastic displays of some nature that never came.”

That said, only Simon Cowell is confirmed to return. L.A. Reid is stepping down. You can bet there’s going to be more changes, as well. 

Fox’s reality guru Mike Darnell, who’s hands-on with the network’s reality programming, gave a more measured assessment to a huddle of reporters after the lively American Panel panel. “I thought the talent was amazing,” Darnell said. “Carly Rose was one of the best singers we had on any of these shows. I thought the judges worked. What didn’t work was the schedule. I know no one wants to believe that. It was the worst schedule that one of these shows has had. We had baseball [preemption], which is normal. We had a had a rain delay [one week] where we only aired half an episode. We had Halloween. We had The Voice air against us on our premiere. It was one thing after another. It’s hard for any show to survive that.”

“I guess you could argue some of the performances and visuals were over the top,” he admitted. “But that’s what X Factor is. I like that it separates it from the other [singing] shows.”

And what about the new hosts, Mario Lopez and Khloe Kardashian?

“I think the hosts were okay,” Darnell said. “I think Mario knows how to be a host. I think Khloe was new. And I thought for someone new she did okay. She never hosted before.”

As for NBC running The Voice against Factor‘s premiere, it sounds like that bit of scheduling aggression won’t go unanswered. “It went in the file for later reference,” Reilly said, drawing laughs. “The score will be settled at some point. I don’t know when. It’s fine. That’s their network. They’re free to do what they want with it. But slightly on the cheesy side? Yeah.”

Which is funny. Though “slightly on the cheesy side” could also describe Factor‘s second season.

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