After a brief intro from One Direction (stars of The X Factor UK, as you know), we're treated to a montage of how this show is a "GLOBAL PHENOMENON" that has given us stars like Leona Lewis, Cher Lloyd AND!! ONE DIRECTION!!1!! Justifying our existence pretty hard, aren't we, X Factor? Speaking of which, has anyone seen Melanie Amaro since the Super Bowl? The credits tell us that Simon Cowell and L.A. Reid are coming back to the judges' table, joined by Demi Lovato (who, as the admitted baby of the group, assures us that you can learn a lot from spending "four or five years" in this industry) AND! BRITNEY SPEARS!!!@!!1! Then there's a montage of wailing singers and dramatic audition moments and multiple varieties of meltdown promised for later in the season and can we just start the show already? Where's the host, anyway? I know Steve Jones got canned, but I'm curious who they got to take his place.
After the credits (same as last year, because you don't spring for Britney and new credits), we're in lovely Austin, Texas -- one of my favorite cities. At least until now, when this show threatens to ruin it. Starry-eyed hopefuls arrive at the audition venue in hordes, nay, plagues. They're already talking about their favorite judges, who we see approaching the venue in varying degrees of anticipation (except Britney, who worriedly stresses out to her long-suffering manager in her hotel suite). Eventually they all make it there, past the screaming crowds and into the green room, where Britney and Demi complement each other's outfits and Simon kindly assures a nervous Demi that the worst thing that can happen is the end of her career. I assume he means the worst thing for her. The judges take their places at the table at the head of the scream-filled auditorium, and we can begin at last.
With backstory, that is. The first auditioner we meet is 21-year-old nursing student Paige Thomas, coaxing her toddler along to the auditions. She's dressed to aim right at Simon's sweet spot, one can't help noticing. She shares her childhood memories of Britney, whom she now admires as a "hot mom" like herself. We also see Kaci Newton, 21, a bank teller, who makes some catty remarks about Paige to her own mom (oops, it's her sister, my bad) before moving in to share a mirror with her. Kaci claims to us that she's a mix of Carrie Underwood and Adele, which, like chocolate and Thai food, are two very popular things that nobody should ever mix. She freaks out to the cameras when Paige's daughter gets fingerprints on her pink pants, like this is the worst thing that could happen to her on this show.