Fox Thrilled Britney Spears Has “The X Factor” Despite Disappointing Ratings

“The X Factor” were handed a bit of bad news today when they learned that they were not only beaten in the ratings war by “The Voice,” they were also 3.5 million viewers down from their 2011 opener. The much-hyped return of the Fox singing contest, expected to at least match last year’s audience numbers with the arrival of new judge Britney Spears. Nevertheless, company execs had to find ratings disappointing at best. Despite the drop, Fox and Simon Cowell have to be thrilled with their Britney Spears’ performance as the pop star has certainly demonstrated she  has  “The X Factor.”

That said, one could conclude that since “The X Factor” had to compete with both “The Voice” and “American’s Got Talent” season’s final and will only have to face “The Voice” in the upcoming weeks of the schedule that their rating’s should fare much better.

Preliminary Nielsen ratings on Thursday showed that an average 8.5 million Americans – watched Spears and singer Demi Lovato make their debuts in the two-hour season premiere of “X Factor” on Wednesday.

NBC emerged as the most-watched U.S. network of Wednesday night but Fox was the winner in the 18-49 age group most prized by advertisers.

Spears, the biggest pop phenomenon of the 2000s with hits like “Toxic” and “Womanizer,” was recruited by Cowell earlier this year after he fired two “X Factor” judges following a disappointing first season. Spears, 30, is reportedly being paid around $15 million a year.

In spite of the television ratings, Spears and former Disney Channel star Lovato were a hit on social media. Social TV analytics firm Bluefin Labs said that “X Factor” triggered about 1.4 million comments on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms on Wednesday, making it the most social season premiere of all time.

In addition, Britney Spears and Demi Lovato are both getting good reviews for their debut as judges on the revamped “X Factor.”

There’s no doubt about it — Britney’s back, and she looked hot. Sure, she’s not that innocent anymore, and she was even a little “mean,” which makes for good TV. And Demi Lovato is mostly being described as “sweet” and “cute.”

Those expecting sunshine and catatonia from Britney Spears’ new gig as X Factor judge were sadly mistaken. So far, Spears has been dismissive and blunt. She hasn’t seemed this animated and with it, if you will, in years and she appeared delightfully snide at times. Were it not for the brief verbal flub, “I feel uncomfortable with you even staring at me,” would have had come off as the barely affected words of a reality TV veteran. It seems like this is one job that Britney Spears might actually enjoy? (That’s as opposed to the pop-star thing that she’s been sleepwalking through for the past few albums.)

She was put on the spot when a guy she sang with on her debut album, Don Philips, showed up as a jittery mess who could no longer sing. She was sensitive and honest, which exceeds my expectations for superstars twice over.

The show knows they’ve got a winner here and included a montage of her curt send-offs. Instant supercuts are what we get in 2012.

Thursday buttressed Spears’ value.

With the judges still in San Francisco looking for someone with that “X Factor”

16-year-old Johnny Maxwell hit the stage. Years of watching singing competition series has taught us that, if the kid’s a dead-ender, producers will edit the Mom to make sure she’s seen with bad lighting, bad dialogue, and throw in some menacing background music.

So far it was looking good for Johnny.

“I knew since he was just a little baby boy this is what he was born to do,” Only Slightly Scary/ Quietly Insistent Stage Mom tells the X-camera.

Johnny is going to perform an original tune he wrote that he says is “basically about doing it big and not letting what anybody says that’s negative get in the way of your dream.”

Pretty complex, but Simon lets it go, telling him only to Take the Moment.

Johnny’s mediocre, but gets the crowd singing along with his catchy “do it big in front of all these people” gag.

The X-judges profess to be smitten. Two “cutes,” from new judges Britney Spears and Demi Lovato, one “amazingly accomplished” from LA Reid, and one “steel in your eyes” from Simon Cowell later, Johnny’s on to the next round. Here again you can’t take your eyes off of Spears, she’s got obviously has that “X Factor.”

Roll pre-audition tape of Lexa Berman, a 22-year-old sexpot in a catsuit from Florida. “I love showing what I have,” she tells the X-camera.

“You don’t have what it takes – it’s a tough, cut-throat world,” she says, trying to intimidate another female contestant as each waits for her turn on stage.

But, as we learned on Night 1 of this season, Demi-Enabled “X Factor” is a No Bully Zone.

“I love being under the lights,” Lexa continues, unaware of her doom.

“There is no plan B,” she says, then thinks better of it and changes that to, “or I’ll have to go marry rich into someone’s family.” And, why shouldn’t she take advantage of national airtime to get the word out?

On stage, Lexa lays the sexy banter on thick. Demi tells Lexa that Simon is single, but Simon, who apparently can dish it out but not take it, is too embarrassed to speak. Lexa fills the void by suggesting to Simon that perhaps “you can’t handle me.”

“You’re ‘Jersey Shore’ meets the Kardashians,” Simon says, recovering his manhood. “I like that combination.”

After just a few bars of Alex Clare’s “Too Close” — she’s not awful, but not good – Lexa’s stopped quickly and Demi gets to deliver the news:

“The problem is that you came off as really over confident,” Demi huffs.

Simon isn’t going up against that, though we sense his regret. “You’re not the best singer in the world but I like your attitude. The problem is most people won’t like you,” he says.

And, as Lexa stomps off stage, Simon contemplates her backside. “There’s a lot of junk in that trunk,” he tells Demi.

Lexa’s followed by a montage of attractive wannabe X-testants without singing chops.

“Why is it that all the good looking people can’t sing?” LA Reid wonders out loud – another say of reminding everyone he discovered Rihanna.

And, this brings us to Jason Brock. If Adam Lambert were pear-shaped, giggly and exuberant, he would be Jason Brock, the 34-year-old tech support phone operator from San Francisco.

LA and Simon both look pained as Jason walks out on stage. Because, being the star-makers they are, they know every successful star in showbiz is as somber and stiff as a banker.

Anyway, Jason is taking no cues from these guys, and launches into a lengthy description of his ideal stage show. It starts with him entering alone under a spotlight, after which dancers descend from above, and then the stage elevates him – and glitter. He’s clearly thought about this a lot. Jason’s having a great time and it’ a rare, genuinely fun moment for a singing competition show. Producers better not be setting us up.

They’re not – he performs Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” with confidence, and gets a standing O from the judges.

“You were talking about this ridiculous concert which was never going to happen…and, you know what, we were at your concert,” Simon says in his first human moment of the new season.

“Flawless…Every song writer wants a guy like you,” gushes LA.

See you at the next round, Jason.

Patrick Ford is a 20-year-old ferret-faced cashier from New Hampshire. He’s come to stalk Britney.

So of course, the producers are sending him through to audition, in keeping with this season’s rapidly emerging story arc: How many creepy people can they throw at Britbrit before she breaks? On Night 1, it was some former duet partner who had slipped into has-been-dom.

Patrick prattles on in the holding area to other hopefuls about how people don’t admire and respect Britney like he does, adding, “I think she might be my sister.” He’s brought a large floral arrangement in a vase to present to her.

“This is a dream come true to even be so close to you,” Patrick says, while Britney strikes various cringing attitudes. In less than two episodes, we’ve learned Brit is able to express a whole range of emotions in the various ways she lets her mouth hang open.

Of course, he’s beyond terrible, singing Britney’s “Circus”.

All the judges say “no” to Patrick.

“That’s all you got for me, Britney, just a ‘no’?” Patrick says while tension builds as everyone mulls whether Patrick’s going to fling himself at the judges’ table. The slasher-movie-score music playing the background helps set the mood.

Patrick says he wants to give Brit the floral arrangement, which he had placed on stage. More tension.

Finally, Simon gets up to accept the flowers for her. Because, as with the previous night, the script calls for Simon to be ever the gentleman after throwing Britney in the way of clinging emotional cripples.

Backstage, a big cake is wheeled into the presence of the judges as a thankyou from the city of Providence, RI, to which the auditions have moved while we were distracted.

Simon scoops off a bit of icing and tries to shove it into Demi’s mouth, but she’s too fast for him.

Carly Rose Sonnenclar, a cute 13-year-old, is backstage with her doting parents. Her mom’s an artist; her dad’s a writer. She says she wants to be a superstar, but, from her, it comes across as girlish fantasy, not “overconfidence”.

On to the stage goes Carly Rose, and tells the judges she’s going to sing Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good”.

Simon’s eyebrows go up. “Did you rehearse?” wonders LA, not believing this child is capable of scaling that mountain of a jazz standard.

Turns out Carly is another one of those cosmic jokes the singing gods like to play on the rest of tuneless humanity. Her performance is sure, and mature.

“Miss Thang, you are a little diva!” raves Britney.

LA: “You may be 13 but your soul is old!”

Simon jokes that somebody is behind the screen singing that song,” adding “A star has just walked out on that stage. “

“I’m obsessed,” adds Demi.

As a longtime student of singing competition shows, we know, sadly, those who audition with jazz standards have a .00037 percent chance of winning. But, for tonight, we’ll allow the producers to leave us with the warm and fuzzy feeling this kid could go the distance.

Clearly, the critics are going love the second day of the show’s premiere especially since Spears’ was in such excellent form.

I just have to add thatno matter who you are Spears joining this show means that she is making herself available for the iconography of today. The Internet will be flooded with these, if it isn’t already. Welcome home, Brit.

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