The X Factor

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
The X Factor TV Poster Image
Simon Cowell's Idol follow-up lags behind original.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 12 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The series strives to be inclusive, welcoming all colors, creeds, and nearly all ages (competitors must be at least 12 to participate). Judges can be cruel in their critiques, although they reserve the worst for those who play up sensationalism rather than demonstrate true talent. Trash talking, financial greed (the grand prize is a contract worth $5 million), and rivalries are all part of the game, but there are also moments of genuine emotion and talent hidden in unlikely places.

Positive Role Models & Representations

A mixed bag. Some of the contestants are models of perseverance, overcoming great odds to seize this chance at a different life, while others clearly just want a few seconds of fame. The judges (Cowell in particular) don't hold back their tough criticisms, which can be difficult to stomach when viewers are emotionally tied to a particular contestant. Some participants flaunt their anger (cursing, throwing things, etc.) toward the judges when they're sent home.


Some angry outbursts, curses, and thrown objects.


Some contestants play up their sex appeal, wearing tiny shorts, short skirts, and tight shirts, and a few flirt outright with the judges. Occasionally lyrics refer to sexy topics like "making love," and performers break out some suggestive dance moves. One participant unzipped his pants onstage, but the sensitive area was blurred by the show's logo.


When tempers fly, so do the curse words, though the strongest ("f--k," "s--t," etc.) are bleeped. "Hell" and "damn" are audible. Judges and competitors use marginal phrases like "shut it" and "that's total crap."


Many tie-ins to the show's main sponsors, Sony and Pepsi. Both brands are mentioned within the show, Pepsi cups are prominent at the judges' table, and contestants are shown drinking Pepsi products.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The X Factor is Simon Cowell's follow-up to American Idol, and the sharp-tongued talent scout brings his trademark dramatic flair to this new project. The two shows share a similar style with rampant advertising (Sony and Pepsi are this series' big investors), tense exchanges between judges and temperamental contestants, and power struggles among the panelists themselves. The strongest of the language ("f--k" and "s--t") is bleeped but unmistakable, and others ("hell," "damn") are heard loud and clear. Some contestants show of over-the-top personalities (often punctuated by cross-dressing, sexiness, and suggestive dance moves) more than actual talent, and there have been instances of constestants' nudity onstage obscured by the show's logo. Because the show welcomes performers as young as 12, you'll see young teens trying to look and act like adults to compete with them.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byShady4lane September 2, 2018

All about the judges!

The new lineup of Judges has ruined the show for me. Robbie Williams clearly doesn’t like the limelight to be on anyone else but him. His wife is just another o... Continue reading
Adult Written byEvan1234 April 14, 2017

Good singing&drama

Educational Value 20/100

People can pick up techniques on how to sing, as well as listening to the judges feedback.

Positive Messages 20/100

It can be inspi... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byDogcat February 15, 2021

I never watched this show before but I’m sure it’s ok

It’s an American Idol follow up. I’m guessing it’s a spin-off or something. When I’m watching American Idol yesterday that annoying BTS Dynamite song was in the... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byLoranikas303 June 12, 2020
I really liked the X-Factor. Sure, it’s better than American Idol. I’m not getting tired when I watched rude contestants, bad singing voices and I watched talen... Continue reading

What's the story?

Created by American Idol alum and talent scout Simon Cowell, THE X FACTOR is an open-audition singing competition that offers its winner a $5 million recording contract and a commercial deal with Pepsi. Thousands of soloists and singing groups try out in select cities around the country, hoping to wow the panelists as well as the live audience members who are in attendance from the very first audition. Once the contestant field is whittled down, the acts are assigned to teams mentored by one of the panelists, all of whom offer feedback on their performances before America weighs in to eliminate one. Although Cowell's involvement remains consistent, his supporting cast of hosts and judges changes each season and has included the likes of Paula Abdul, L.A. Reid, Britney Spears, and Khloe Kardashian Odom.

Is it any good?

Let's face it: The fact that this series looks and feels so much like the granddaddy of all talent competition reality shows proves that although Cowell left Idol in the dust, he saw no need to fix what wasn't broken. But even though the audition and weekly performance process is nearly identical to Idol's, this copycat show lags behind in production value, giving it the feel of a small-town talent show rather than a large-scale, multi-million-dollar competition. To its credit, it's a nice change of pace to see singing groups in the mix, and the fact that there's no upper age limit on contestants makes it seem slightly less superficial and image-driven than Idol is.

Of course, part of the draw to these reality competitions is the posturing that goes on at the judges' table, and the fact that X Factor contestants are assigned to a panelist's team means that there are bragging rights at stake here as well as a contract for the winner. This fuels the fire for judges' comments, which can be brutal, and opens the door for even more bickering over opinions among the pro's. The bottom line is that The X Factor is designed to entertain the way Twinkies are designed to quell hunger. There's not much of value to it, it's not going to satisfy you for very long, but for some inexplicable reason, you're left wanting to come back for more. This is fine for adults, of course, but is it really what you want your kids spending their screen time consuming?

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about this competition style. Do you think shows like this succeed in finding otherwise hidden talent? Does the elimination process seem fair? Do the judges play favorites? Do you think contestants' appearance ever affects the judges' response? Is this fair?

  • How does this series compare to American Idol? Do you think it's designed to compete with Idol or to complement it? Have the changes Cowell has made in creating The X Factor (fewer age restrictions, an additional judge) improved the show? What do you think are his motivations in launching this series?

  • Tweens: How much of a role does advertising play in this show? Does it interfere with your enjoyment of the show? Does it affect your impression of the sponsoring companies? Is advertising a necessary evil? Does it ever serve a positive purpose?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love performances

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate