‘X Factor’ Recap: American Talent Show Sings a Familiar Tune

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“It is the biggest moment in my career,” Simon Cowell told Piers Morgan in a CNN interview about his new project The X Factor.

What Cowell should have said was, “this is the biggest moment in my career…since American Idol.” 

The X Factor, based on the U.K. hit, premiered Wednesday in a two-hour showcase of America’s best and certainly worst vocal talent. The U.S. edition is one of a number of shows created by Cowell after his success as a judge on the pop juggernaut, American Idol.

(MORE: Still Crazy After All These Years: Simon & Paula’s Disjointed ‘X Factor’ Reunion)

But Cowell seemed to fall short of his promise of a large contrast between X Factor and Idol. Besides loosening the age requirement and allowing star hopefuls to audition in groups, The X Factor remains an Idol  replica, replete with the same format: Auditions followed by judges mentoring the contestants and polishing them into what America will help decide is a solo or group of pop stars.

The very familiar format culminates with a $5-million contract with Syco Music/Sony and a chance to appear in a Pepsi commercial during the 2012 Super Bowl.

But Newsfeed should note unlike that Idol, the new show divides contestants in four groups: male, female, adults over 30 and groups. Akin to Idol, the premiere provided drama amid the judges, including an inexplicable mid-show swap from British popstar Cheryl Cole to former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger, a product of a TV show competition herself. Other judges include familiar faces Paula Abdul and industry legend L.A. Reid.

A few highlights from the show include an elderly Nevada couple, Dan, 70, and Venita, 83, who sang a wildly off-key Unchained Melody, leading to a cruel toss from the show. A man named Geo exposed himself, sending a disgusted Abdul to the bathroom, 13-year-old Rachel Crow warmed the crowd with her big dreams and even bigger voice, and recovering drug addict Chris Rene  caught the eye of the judges with a song he wrote, “Young Homie.”

“Maybe you need the show and maybe we need you,” Cowell said to Rene after the judges agreed to allow him into the next round upon conclusion of the show.

Fans can tune in Thursday to see if Cowell is sincere in what is sure to be a heartfelt storyline about a trash collector with a toddler trying to make it big. Ah, reality television at its finest.

MORE: ‘Britain’s Sweetheart’ Cheryl Cole Out as ‘X Factor’ Judge