With the live shows starting this week on "X Factor," it's time for Simon Cowell's baby to graduate to the level of the big-boy reality shows. Sure, it's doing fine in the ratings, but if this were the end of the first grading period, the teachers' comments would be along the lines of "Failing to reach potential. Needs to stop imitating classmates and start breaking apart from the gang."
How to do this? Sure, the show could rely on the performances themselves, or the fact that the wide age game and addition of the groups makes this a more diverse series of acts than on other singing shows. But how much fun is that? If "X Factor" wants to think outside the box and make a bigger splash, here are five ratings grabs I'd like to see.
5. A Steve Jones vs. Ryan Seacrest feud
Jones has been the anti-Seacrest so far, staying in the background instead of inserting himself into every scene. That's really dull, so he's just taking up space right now. He needs to get into the game by calling out Ryan at every opportunity and making snarky comments about the "Idol" host's radio show, hosting abilities or wardrobe. If Steve needs help, he can ask Simon to break out his notebook of ready-made insults from his "Idol" days.
4. Bring back Brian!
Not to pick on Steve again, but he's the weakest link this season and the show had originally planned to give him a partner until focus groups apparently couldn't translate Cheryl Cole's English into American. That bumped Nicole Scherzinger, who was originally destined to be co-host, to the judges’ stand. Why not bring in Brian Dunkleman? After all, the "American Idol" season one co-host, like the over-30s singers in the competition, should get one more chance at the spotlight before accepting obscurity.
3. 'X Factor' meets 'Big Brother'
To create some drama, put every singer in a small house, make them share rooms and have the cameras constantly rolling. Think the over-30s won't be griping non-stop about having to pick up all the trash that the teenagers leave lying around? Or that the teens won't be irritated that the parents are constantly hanging their kids' art projects all over the house? Raise your hand if you wouldn't want to see Leroy Bell snap at Brian "Astro" Bradley, or Rachel Crow and Drew Ryniewicz mock Stacy Francis behind her back.
2. A non-supportive audience
Anyone can perform before a crowd of cheering supporters, and the "X Factor" crowd is likely to be one that treats every competitor like their own 8-year-old at the talent show. But wouldn't it be great to have an audience that was more discerning and less supportive? Put the family and friends backstage, bring in a crowd of half-drunk people from local clubs to fill the seats and hear what happens. Let's see how these folks react to some hecklers! Other than Simon, I mean.
1. Actual physical evidence of sexual tension between Simon and Paula
Simon alluded to this recently in an interview, but those are just words. The proof is in the action. Let's see Paula Abdul explode with jealousy if Nicole touches Simon's arm while making a comment. Or how about Simon slamming down the Pepsi cup as Paula and L.A. Reid share a private joke? Make this into a singing soap opera, and the ratings will surely soar.
What would you like to see "X Factor" try to jazz up the ratings? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page!