Ellen Gray: 'X Factor' Can you handle it?

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* THE X FACTOR. 8 tonight and tomorrow, Fox29.

* REVENGE. 10 tonight, 6ABC.

 

AFTER MONTHS of hype, it's time to ask yourself: Do I have what it takes to watch "The X Factor"?

It's a commitment of time - four hours a week to start - and of faith, in a process we know to be only slightly more likely to produce lasting stars than "The Bachelor" is to produce lasting relationships.

It's also a renewed commitment to that outspoken Brit Simon Cowell, who left "American Idol" to bring his bigger, possibly better talent show to America, the strange and wonderful country he seems determined to conquer (and with Paula Abdul once again at his side).

God knows I'd hoped to skip this one altogether.

But after seeing tonight's two-hour opener, I'm forced to concede I'll probably watch. For a while, at least.

Because while "The X Factor" may not on the surface offer anything that can't be found on "Idol," "America's Got Talent" and "The Voice" or their many cable imitators, it does have a level of showmanship that makes me want to believe again, whether it's in 13-year-olds who sing like established stars three times their age or in recovering addicts whose lives just may be about to change forever.

Goose-bump moments have been few and far between in recent seasons of "Idol," but there's more than one in tonight's auditions episode, which also strikes a better balance between freakish talents and just plain freaks.

I'm liking judge L.A. Reid and not much caring about either Cheryl Cole or Nicole Scherzinger (who replaces Cole in the second hour with no one going into much detail). And Paula's still Paula.

Simon, on the other hand, is a bit more like the guy we first met back in the summer of 2002, which is to say he seems wide awake and actually interested in his surroundings.

If maybe a bit more of a pushover.

I don't know how I'm going to feel after the auditions are over and everyone's been sorted into categories - boys, girls, over-30s and groups - or whether I truly have the stamina "The X Factor" is going to demand at a time of year when my DVR and I are already pretty busy. But for now, to quote the judges after some of the better auditions, "I'm going to say yes."

"The X Factor" isn't the only new show that's looking for a commitment tonight. ABC's "Revenge," starring Emily VanCamp ("Everwood," "Brothers and Sisters") as a woman determined to wreak havoc in the Hamptons, launches after the hour-long season premiere of ABC's Emmy-dominating "Modern Family."

That's the only break the show's likely to get in a time slot where the network's struggled in recent years and where it now faces CBS' relocated "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" as well as NBC's "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."

Way over the top but potentially a guilty pleasure for those with the time to pursue it, "Revenge" pits VanCamp's Emily Thorne against Madeleine Stowe's Victoria Grayson, an icy society doyenne who's unaware that the new girl next door has a deep-seated grudge against her family (and is willing to go to not-so-nice lengths to make her point).

Hate to be left hanging? I'd approach this one with caution.

 


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