Even living under a rock wouldn't have shielded you from the endless hype for "The X Factor," which premieres tonight after years of planning.
Can the show live up to its impossible expectations? Mmmm, probably not. But it's still worth watching, if for no other reasons than to see how close it comes, and how far the show is willing to go to become a pop culture force on par with "American Idol."
Judges flying in on helicopters, sweeping aerial shots of the contestants and an expensive production overall are but a few of the ways Simon Cowell and company are trying to make sure viewers recognize "X Factor" as the next big show.
Talk about sibling rivalry; Fox is the only one almost certain to win in the "X Factor" vs. "American Idol" faceoff, unless the ratings (or ratings failure) of one chips away at the other.
For now, here are five reasons we recommend watching at least the first episode of "X Factor," airing tonight at 8 p.m. on Fox:
1. Simon Cowell. He was always the best part of "American Idol" when it was on. And now, His Snarkiness is back and ready to dash the dreams of many a delusional wannabe singer again.
2. The squabbling. Paula Abdul joins him at the "X Factor" judges table, and they pick right up where they left off with their "Idol" love/hate relationship. We should be able to find out pretty quickly tonight if the feuding is real — or fabricated for the sake of drama.
3. No Randy. "Idol" judge Randy Jackson has the music industry credibility to make insightful comments and provide truly valuable advice to the singing competition contestants, but he continues to stick to his line-up of whooping, "Yeah, dawg!"-ing and "Pitchy, dawg"-ing, instead. "The X Factor" has super successful music producer L.A. Reid as Cowell's equally experienced industry counterpart on the judges' panel, and that should make for some interesting, pithy commentary throughout the season.
4. Nicole Scherzinger. She's likable, brings the perspective of pop star success and competing on a reality show — remember, she became a member of the all-girl group Eden's Crush via "Popstars" — and she has the potential to be more emotional than Abdul — while providing a more steady baseline of calm.
5. $5 million. The stakes are high for that grand prize, the highest ever offered in a talent search series. The contestants are going to be held to an even higher standard if they hope to snag the life-changing check.
Also read: 'Idol' + 'X-Factor': A Sly Move for Fox
On the other hand…
Here are five reasons why "X Factor" might not live up to its hype:
1. Simon Cowell. Still rocking the t-shirts, which are lower cut this time around, he faces much more pressure this time. Given just how grandiosely he has pimped the show, mere success won't satisfy him. He wants an "American Idol," the early seasons, level of success. And given how many lackluster recent seasons of "AI" viewers have sat through, how there hasn't been a major post-"Idol" breakthrough for an "Idol" contestant since Chris Daughtry in season five and how viewers may be fatigued from the glut of talent search series in general, Cowell's goals may be too grandiose.
2. Paula Abdul. Though there was an outpouring of support for her right after she left "American Idol," did anyone really miss her? The only thing more hyped than "X Factor" itself is the supposedly tempestuous relationship between Cowell and Abdul. If she annoyed him that much, would he have hired her back?
3. No Ryan Seacrest. Say what you want about how goofy Ryan Seacrest is as "AI" host, or how he makes some strange, even politically incorrect, remarks sometimes, or how he can't let a segment go by without some self-referential remark. Fine. But his job is harder than it looks, and Seacrest makes it look easy, even though it's one of 23 jobs he currently performs.
4. Nicole Scherzinger. There are probably few viewers who will tune in only because of her or in spite of her. At least initially, she's kind of a non-factor on "The X Factor."
5. $5 million. Think back to all the singers you've seen perform in the last few years on talent search shows. Were any of them worthy of a $5 million prize? Maybe in hindsight, after they had sold millions of records, a Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood or Chris Daughtry seem well worth it. But even in those examples, they were unproven at the time they won "AI" (or didn't, in the unfortunate case of Daughtry). Do you think it's even possible to find, via a reality TV competition, a performer who, in a few short months, will be worth the prize money?
That's the real X factor.