Seriously, The X Factor? Two and a half hours? Seriously? That's longer than the damn network's clearance window. That's it, I'm out. I quit. Goodbye.
Okay, fine, let's do this thing. The opening is now so different that it looks like the premiere of a new season, with the bombastic opera-howlers gone and a different voice-over guy and black-and-white photos of the people still in it at various points of the competition. As usual, we're just now learning how this next stage is going to work: there are 17 acts left, and the judges will pick five to send home. Once again, we get the rundown of the judges, categories, and remaining singers: L.A. Reid with the Boys (Marcus Canty, Phillip Lomax, "Astro," and Chris Rene), Simon Cowell with the Girls (Simone Battle, "Drew," Tiah Tolliver, Rachel Crow, and Melanie Amaro), Paula Abdul with the Groups (Lakoda Rayne, InTENsity, The Stereo Hogzz, and The Brewer Boys) and Nicole Scherzinger with the Over 30s (Dexter Haygood, Josh Krajcik, LeRoy Bell, and Stacy Francis). I'd tell you more, but the editing of all this has given me epilepsy and I need to get some meds.
Okay, I'm back. New VO guy welcomes us to the live show (did I mention it's live?) and announces Steve Jones, who appears in front of the screaming audience on the crazily-lit stage in a black suit like he's hosting the Oscars, only he's more excited than if that were the case. He re-explains that there will be 17 acts performing tonight, but there will be only twelve left at the end, as each judge selects three acts to come back next week. So one act from each of three categories are done, whereas Simon will have to cut two. Oh, here are the opera-howlers, as Steve introduces the judges, all dressed up -- even Simon, who's got that trademark shirt-unbuttoned-so-the-sides are-parallel-to-the-lapels-of-his-suit-jacket look going on. They walk off the stage and down to the same old judges' table that they've been using all along while Steve reminds us that the winner will get a recording contract and a Pepsi commercial. After some brief banter, Steve tells us the Boys are coming first. They'll all sing, and L.A. will decide which of them to send home tonight. Steve asks L.A. who's going first, and L.A. announces, "Steve? This is Astro."
Cue the Astro-reel. You may know Astro as Brian Bradley, the "Stop Looking at My Moms" kid who's also known as The Astronomical Kid. So I guess he's decided he's got a better chance at winning and earning a five-million-dollar contract and a multi-decade career by naming himself after the Jetsons' dog. So Astro hits the stage, and it's immediately obvious that they're sparing no expense on the production. The stage is lit up in a way that would have made my old TV buzz madly, and there's an all-girl dance crew up there with him as he performs "Jump" by Kriss Kross, but with a lot of the lyrics changed to fit his name, the show, his hometown, etc. He does really well, too, aside from getting a little winded towards the end. After he's done, the audience screams its approval. The judges are also giving feedback, with close-ups of their faces projected on Jumbotrons flanking the stage, which must be terrifying for the live audience. They hold it together, though. Nicole and Paula gush about how awesome Astro is and make lame cracks aimed at L.A., and Simon adds that L.A. is "lit'rally" insane if Astro doesn't go through to the next round. There's also a lot of talk about what a great way this was to kick off the live shows. Steve gets back onstage with Astro, who briefly stalls the proceedings by showing off his outfit, and then L.A. says Chris Rene is next.