Dave on Demand: Britney's 'X Factor' turn: From hype to ho-hum

File this one under: Things We Found Out Watching the Season Debut of The X Factor.

Britney Spears is a Gorgon. Like the female monster of Greek mythology, she can apparently wreak devastation with just a look.

You had only to witness that poor disconsolate guy backstage after being dismissed by the judges. He was sobbing uncontrollably, collapsing to his knees again and again and wailing: "Did you see Britney's eyes? Did you see Britney's eyes?" Oh, the horror!

Shriveler of souls she may be. Unfortunately, Spears is not the electrifying personality Simon Cowell was hoping for when he ponied up $15 million to get the baby-diva on his also-sang reality show.

The X Factor did its best to frame Britney as a fiery judge in its first hour on Wednesday. And that was great fun as a novelty act, watching the expressions play across her face as one hopeful after another hit the stage.

But she soon settled into the dreary tedium of a judge's role during the audition rounds, which is to stick a pin in the dreams of just about every person gathered in that festive throng outside the Cow Palace in San Francisco. (So many cross-dressers! Who would have thought?)

In the end, the show settled for a montage of Spears delivering a definitive and succinct "No!" to one singer after another. We could probably get Cee Lo's pink cockatoo to do that.

If you're the producer of one of these singing contests trying to hold on in an oversaturated market, what you dream of when you obscenely overpay to bring aboard celebrity judges is that they will be opinionated, expressive, and funny.

What you hope for is that you will at least get a ratings bump, as American Idol temporarily did after hiring Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez.

But even that strategy may be backfiring. Despite the star power and the hype, the season debut of The X Factor finished more than 30 percent below last year's.

The real problem here is that the judges and the flashy production values on The X Factor completely eclipse the mediocre talent.

At the top of the episode, there was a promo boasting about The X Factor's track record in discovering new stars. Leona Lewis! Cher Lloyd! One Direction!

Except all those singers were on the British version of the show. Not mentioned at all: Melanie Amaro, the still-obscure American X Factor winner.

Come on, Simon. You have to give Britney something to work with here. Otherwise, she may turn the googly eyes on you.

Double threat. The most surprising guest star of the week was former American Idol contestant Paul McDonald on NBC's Parenthood as a rock musician who charms his way into the bed of Amber (Mae Whitman).

McDonald was the leaping gnome with the brilliant smile on Season 10 of Idol who always reminded me of Leo ("Long Tall Glasses") Sayer. Of course, Leo would never have broken Amber's heart.

Late start. All is right with the world. CBS announced this week that it is pushing back its Sunday prime-time schedule to accommodate football overruns.

My prayers are answered. This means that now when I play back my recording of The Good Wife, I won't end up having to fast-forward through 23 minutes of The Amazing Race and get to see only the first half of one of my favorite shows.

Although this year it's possible there was no need for clock adjustments. These NFL replacement refs don't seem to see any penalties. So, maybe the games will go faster anyway.

What ails you. Citing a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Today coanchor Savannah Guthrie reported that Omega-3 fish oil supplements don't have many of the reputed health benefits.

"This strikes me as another one of those instances when you hear something's good for you, you get on the program, you start taking those supplements, and then another study comes out and says, 'Well, it really doesn't do much,' " Guthrie said to a guest cardiologist.

At the end of the segment, Guthrie announced: "Still ahead: Is the cure for baldness now in sight? Why a certain vitamin could hold the answer."

Hey, Savannah. I feel another one of those instances coming on.


Contact David Hiltbrand

at 215-854-4552 or dhiltbrand@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @daveondemand_tv.