Simon Cowell Introduces The X Factor's "Controversial" New Four Chair Challenge
by Hanh Nguyen
The X Factor
Ready for what Simon Cowell calls “possibly the worst title” for an elimination challenge on reality TV?
Despite his cheeky insult, the series producer and judge/mentor is psyched for The X Factor’s Four Chair Challenge, which will debut on Wednesday (8/7c, Fox). “It is dramatic, it is controversial,” Cowell told reporters at a sneak peek screening of the new format change on Monday.
The original Four Chair Challenge was developed by The X Factor Holland, and the U.S. version “riffed on it.” The mentors and their teams — Simon with Groups, Demi Lovato with Girls, Kelly Rowland with the Over 25s and Paulina Rubio with Boys — will go through an intense elimination process after which only four of the original 10 team members will make it to the live performance rounds. One by one, each act will sing, and after each performance, the mentor in charge of the group must decide instantly whether or not that act deserves to win a chair (or in the Groups’ case, a bench/loveseat) and move on to the finals. If all four chairs are filled, and a new challenger earns a spot, one person will have to give up their chair and go home. The process continues until no more performers are left and all four seats are filled.
Based upon the sneak peek of the Four Chair Challenge, which focused on Paulina’s indecisiveness regarding one of her boys, here’s TVGuide.com’s take on the new twist:
Pro: The X Factor certainly has upped the drama quotient, not only multiplying the number of eliminations in one round, but also bringing in the performer’s family members to pray and cry right alongside them. It’s actually fun in a horrible, trainwreck-y way, and certainly not boring. And we have to admit that it’s kind of funny to see the four seated singers get that “Oh crap!” look on their faces when they realize one of them has to give up their seat.
Con: Ready for some tears and heartbreak? How about watching it six times in one night? Enduring six eliminations at a time can be quite the emotional overload, and after a while, we just start to feel numb with fatigue.
Pro: Hallelujah! We don’t have to endure weeks of mediocre performances from those just good enough to fly under the radar. These snap judgments give the singers (and us) instant gratification so that they don’t have to stew for a whole episode, night or even week until they learn their fate.
Con: Sadly, it’s the singers who lose out. The point of The X Factor is not just to find, but also nurture a future star, and getting the boot after one performance means that six unpolished singers who could have benefited from more coaching are getting short shrift. Similarly, we’ll miss some of our favorite singers who could have used more screen time.
Power to the mentor
Pro: Having to make so many decisions on the spot means that the mentors must prove their musical mettle. It’s a great showcase for the judges, especially newbies Kelly and Paulina, whom we’re just getting to know.
Con: Unfortunately, getting put in the hot seat also highlights the mentor’s faults. In at least two instances, a judge regrets their decision and keeps someone they previously said they wanted to eliminate. Also, the audience’s extremely vocal reaction — both positive and negative — could be seen as a factor in the mentor’s change of heart. This indecisiveness undermines their authority and shakes the viewers’ faith that the final four on each team are indeed the best.
Here’s a preview of the Four Chair Challenge:
Are you psyched for the Four Chair Challenge? Do you think it’s controversial?
The X Factor airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8/7c on Fox. Plus: Check out Kelly’s Watchlist below: