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The X Factor



Simon Cowell's Idol follow-up lags behind original.

What parents need to know

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

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
Not applicable

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.

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?

Families can talk 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

Premiere date:September 4, 2004
Cast:Nicole Scherzinger, Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell
Genre:Reality TV
Topics:Music and sing-along
TV rating:TV-14

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Parent Written bydr peper guy September 22, 2011

it was fine until

well thank god we watched as a family last night when because not only was there some great talent which i wouldent have cared if my kids saw alone that or not but they also would have saw a man who can not sing worth a lick and proceds to unfasen yes unfasen his pants and pull his underwear down for all to see so this i guess is going to be more for older kids cause me and my kids loved it just took us by ssuprise and is not so mutch for the younger crowd so parents please use cauation when viewing with your younger children but if you want a better choice wait for the voice or americas got talent to return agin
What other families should know
Too much sex
Teen, 14 years old Written bySamira.A October 29, 2013

I can't get enough of it!

Tbh I think X Factor is such an amazing show. It has amazing judges, perfect talent, and basically shows others that you too can go onto that stage and follow your dreams like those singers/groups on stage. It's a perfect show for anyone, especially if you're looking for a new music artist/group to listen to. I watch YouTube videos and count down the minutes to when it finally comes on my TV. Best show I've ever watched!
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Adult Written byclarence August 5, 2015
What other families should know
Too much swearing