Highly anticipated “The X-Factor” debuts on Fox

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“I put $5 million on the line here, and that appeared on stage?”

And just like that, a new insult-laden talent assessment era from Simon Cowell was born.

Debuting last night, The X-Factor, the new reality singing talent show, (and I use the word “new” here loosely given the plethora of talent shows currently dominating television), is the latest creation from the mind of Cowell and marked his first return to Fox television since departing American Idol over a year ago.

Though it wasn’t the most watched show on TV last night (Modern Family was), it’s 12.5 million viewers and 4.4 rating was decent, although, appearing on an episode of the “Today” show earlier this week, Cowell said that if the show did not pull in 20 million viewers, it would have to be considered a failure.

It’s not so much of a failure though as it is, just maybe, something that everyone has already seen.

But hey, why mess with a blueprint that works?

Much like Idol, not only did Cowell invent X-Factor, originally a hit British show, he also funded the American version (hence the $5 million remark earlier), produced it, and is of course the brutally honest deciding judge of talent on it.

Joining Cowell at the judge’s table is familiar Idol face Paula Abdul, along with music producer L.A. Reid and British pop star Cheryl Cole, who lasted until about half way through auditions last spring before she was fired and replaced, literally, right in the middle of last night’s show, by American pop star Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls.

So, for those at home keeping track of all the differences between The X-Factor and American Idol (and there aren’t many), there is the first: the show features four judges instead of three.

A number of other minute details separate X-Factor from it’s sister shows, including a broader age-range for contestants and the use of a live audience and a full panel of judges for auditions right off the bat.  It’s after the auditions are completed though that the show really starts to take a turn of it’s own, sort of.

Reminiscent of NBC’s summer talent show hit, The Voice, The X-Factor will pit judge against judge as the contestants are divided up and each judge is assigned to one group as a coach.  Each finalist will then compete for the show’s $5 million prize.

For the time being though, that is, until the show’s contestants are whittled down to the talented ones, the show is again dependant upon viewers tuning in to see Cowell be brutal, and there is certainly no shortage of that.

Despite a promotional, and clearly satirical, commercial preview of the show in which Cowell talks about how a year can change a person’s attitude and it’s not about him anymore, he then goes on to describe some voices on the show as “a horrible nightmare,” “horrific,” “total rubbish,” and “diluted.”  Newcomer judge Reid even gets in on the act as well, telling on contestant, “I wanted to slit my wrist during that.”

Though it’s not a huge departure from the Idol formula that worked for Cowell in the past, the show’s preview still makes plenty of reference to altercations that remain to be seen, including Abdul getting into an argument with some audience members, Abdul knocking a bag of chips into Cowell’s face out of rage and plenty of backstage crying on the part of the contestants, leaving much for the viewers to look forward to.

And a dude with a cool British accent heaving nasty insults at people never really gets old anyway, does it?

Clips from last night’s preview can be seen online, and the X-Factor can be seen on Fox Wednesday and Thursday nights at 8 p.m. PST.

photos courtesy of rustyallie via flickr and Alexis951 via wikimedia commons

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