September 12th, 2013
11:45 AM ET
Simon Cowell is nothing if not persistent.
After seasons 1 and 2 of "The X Factor" failed to produce a global star or a must-watch panel of judges, the T-shirt loving Brit is back with another retooled expert lineup.
But in the eyes of some critics, not even the lovely Kelly Rowland and Paulina Rubio, who have joined returning judges Demi Lovato and Cowell, can save this show's flaws. Thankfully, Wednesday's hour-long season 3 premiere had bright spots of talent.
Although the reality competition is still doing the tired "watch-and-laugh" routine with less accomplished vocalists, there was nothing to laugh about with Lillie McCloud's performance. The 54-year-old - yes, 54; we know, we hate her too - mom of three and grandmother of seven had masterful control while singing CeCe Winans' "Alabaster Box," and moved some of the judges to tears.
Another surprising highlight came from the singing couple Alex & Sierra, who performed an alternative version of former "X Factor" judge Britney Spears' "Toxic."
Simon wasn't convinced that they'd be able to pull it off, but in the end the judges ate the pair's love story right up:
And then there was 13-year-old Rion, a bubbly Floridian who doesn't let a birth defect stand in the way of her dream. Cowell called her take on Carrie Underwood's "Blown Away" the easiest "yes" he's ever handed out:
And last but not least, there was Carlito Olivero, a born-and-bred Chicago native who got the Los Angeles auditions off on the right note with Rihanna's "Stay." Lovato had him pegged as a cross between Frankie J and Trey Songz, while Cowell was convinced Carlito's a star in the making:
But after watching those hits and a few misses, most critics were unconvinced that this season of "The X Factor" is going to be a vast improvement.
"Not sure how I felt about that episode. Paulina and Kelly both seemed OK," said Hitfix in a recap. "Neither was embarrassing, (neither) was especially memorably successful."
The Daily Beast had a much stronger opinion on the new lineup, calling the combination of Rowland, Rubio, Lovato and Cowell "ghastly."
"If Britney Spears doesn't prove to be must-see TV," the critique said, recalling Spears' season 2 gig, "then 'that girl who was in Destiny's Child–not Beyoncé' and 'she's a Latin singer...I think...but, no no, it's not Shakira' don’t stand a chance."
MTV tried to view the premiere with optimism, calling it a "promising start for the talent show that has had trouble gaining traction in the U.S. so far."
Entertainment Weekly, too, is working hard to see some potential.
"The U.S. 'X Factor' has never been good, but (Wednesday's) relatively benign hour-long premiere suggested season 3 might not be terrible," EW said. "This can work, this time. Maybe. There's a chance."
What did you think of the season 3 premiere last night? The two-hour second half will air on Fox tonight at 8 p.m.
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