Is the third time the charm for “The X Factor“? FOX’s other singing reality competition hasn’t quite managed to gel together over its first two years, but as the talent search heads into Season 3, premiering Wednesday, Sept. 11 at 8/7c, producer Simon Cowell might have finally figured out the winning formula.
That means keeping Demi Lovato alongside him at the judges’ table, along with the addition of Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland, already a judge on the U.K. version of the show, and Latin superstar Paulina Rubio, who judged the Mexican version of “The Voice.”
Cowell and his three ladies will sift through the country’s undiscovered talent in an attempt to crown a winner whose name we’ll actually remember next year. And though the judges’ chemistry will certainly help ratings, so will finding plenty of legitimately amazing singers to compete in the live rounds.
Will it work? Find out when the show premieres on Sept. 11. In the meantime, here’s what you can expect from Season 3:
1. Lots of talent. Don’t worry — the season starts out with an all-around solid contestant, so you don’t have to start cringing first thing. Most of the dismissals are done in montage form, so there’s no William Hung-esque cover-your-ears moments. Bonus: Believe it or not, the first sob story doesn’t even come until the very end of the premiere. Extra bonus: The girl’s so worthy of her accolades that you won’t even be mad about the emotional manipulation!
2. New judges. Yes, there are two new faces on the panel. But unlike last year’s high-profile purchase, which meant the producers had to milk the most out of their millions, the focus is not on the two new ladies. Instead, it’s on the contestants (as it should be). That said, the women fit in quite well. Rowland’s demeanor is so sweet when she dismisses people that they probably don’t even realize they’re actually being insulted; Rubio is trying very hard to be “spicy” (which is probably what producers pitched when they hired her), but she has a natural, sassy, sarcastic rapport with her comrades that echoes Lovato’s spats with Cowell.
3. Format changes. There are no judges’ house or boot camp rounds this year, and instead of a mysterious division of contestants at the end of the auditions, the four categories are already set (and make a lot more sense than last year): Boys, Girls, Groups, and Over 25s. They’ll be whittled down to the final acts in a new middle round, filmed in front of a live studio audience.
4. Success stories. Sure, One Direction is a certified world phenomenon and any savvy producer would take as much credit for that as possible. Bizarrely, however, the braggy intro reel for the Season 3 premiere touts the 1D boys and past U.K. winner Leona Lewis, who hasn’t been heard from Stateside since she sang the “Avatar” theme song, rather than pimping recent Teen Choice Award winners Emblem 3 or internet buzzy girl group Fifth Harmony (or, like, either of the past winners).
5. Excellent hair. Because “The X Factor” bounces around between noteworthy auditions from all over the country instead of devoting an entire episode to a particular audition city, you’ll see a variety of fierce wardrobe options on each judge in every episode. But nothing compares the well-coiffed Ken doll look perfected by newly solo host Mario Lopez. He’s no Seacrest (not yet, at least), but that gelled superhero helmet beats Ryan’s frosted tips any day of the week.
“The X Factor” premieres Wednesday, Sept. 11 at 8/7c on FOX.