Call it "Simon's Monday Night Massacre." X Factor executive producer and judge Simon Cowell fired host Steve Jones, and the Monday night announcement was quickly followed by the news that much-derided judge Nicole Scherzinger had also been dismissed. More surprisingly, Cowell also ditched his former American Idol cohort Paula Abdul. The first season of The X Factor was a moderate ratings success, although it fell far short of Cowell's lofty goals. The reality singing competition got mixed reviews, but critics called Jones "robotic," and branded Scherzinger "one of the worst reality show judges ever." Will cleaning house improve the show for its second season?
The judges were the least of its problems: The X Factor can't solve its problems with a personnel change, says James Poniewozik at TIME. At first, the show seemed doomed because Fox already had a hit singing competition that was the brainchild of Simon Cowell. But it turned out X Factor was quite different from Idol — but not in a good way. With its "bombast and pyrotechnics," X Factor always felt more like a talent show — in the cheesiest sense — than "a search for a recording star."
"X'ed out! Can Simon Cowell's house cleaning save The X Factor?"
This could be just what the show needs: This shakeup is "an admission of failure," says Tim Molloy at The Wrap. Scherzinger was a lousy judge, and Jones' stilted hosting lacked a necessary emotional connection. It sometimes seemed the ruthless Cowell was "the most empathetic person around," and, when that's the case, "something's wrong with your show." Maybe now X Factor will get a new celebrity judge — Mariah Carey is rumored to be in consideration — who "may be gifted enough to humanize" it.
"X Factor shakeup an admission of failure; enter Mariah?"
But why Paula? Paula Abdul's dismissal "was by far the most shocking" news, says David Hinckley at the New York Daily News. It's like "Johnny Carson dumping Ed McMahon or Mr. Krabs dumping SpongeBob." But this was a case of "right girl, wrong show." Paula's relentless cheerleading worked on Idol because judges were only there for feedback. On The X Factor, they have to be tough, hands-on coaches, and "that's clearly neither Paula's inclination nor strong suit." Sadly, the show is better off without her.
"X Factor shakeup: Paula Abdul was better fit for American Idol than Simon Cowell's more honest offshoot"