Film and TV

The X Factor: Boot Camp, Minus Sgt. Hartman

The pace of the audition rounds was so fast, I didn't realize the judges put through 162 people in the first two weeks of The X Factor. When the field arrives in Los Angeles for "boot camp," they are informed that they will be shaved down to a field of 100, which will ultimately be reduced by two-thirds: Only 32 contestants will make it through to ... whatever comes after boot camp.

There are pluses and minuses to the revised format for boot camp. On the plus side, we get to meet a few talented contestants from the audition rounds who weren't featured on the earlier episodes, and the 90-minute format is watchable in just over an hour when you DVR and fast-forward through commercials.

On the con side, the episode is so short we hardly have a minute to figure out who is who, and we are left with a lot of disjointed footage of performances, individual interviews, and the occasional extended shot of Paula Abdul sobbing.

We hear the phrase, "This is why they call it boot camp" about a half-dozen times, but other than dancing I don't see anyone acting particularly drill-sergeant-y, although someone does gently suggest to 14-year-old "Stop Lookin' At My Moms" rapper Brian Bradley that maybe he might want to join in on the dance practice? Pretty please? It's fun!

After a day of dance training and some sing- and dance-offs, the contestants are whittled down from 162 to 100; the process is so fast that it's over by the time I prep the five-ingredient soup I am making for dinner. The group of 100 is then broken up into teams, who will be coached by stylists, choreographers, and voice coaches for a performance for the judges. These performances will determine who moves on to the next round.

Group 1: "Creep" by Radiohead: Some of the most memorable contestants return in this group, including Dexter Haygood, the 52-year-old Jagger/James Brown hybrid who threw in a little Steven Tyler for good measure this episode. The group performed the song reasonably well, though I think Haygood has sung his last note on XF. This group also featured Audrey Turner, 52, a less-famous former wife of Ike Turner. Whaaaa?

Group 2: "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" by U2: The entire Joshua Tree album brings me back to college, and this song is my favorite. Jazzlyn Little, the 16-year-old who wowed in the last audition episode blew the opening lyrics but she kept it together for the rest of the song. Power voices Melanie Amaro and Stacy Francis showed a lot of control, and played nice with the group instead of going all power-diva.

Group 3: "Desperado" by The Eagles: Seinfeld ruined this song for me, so now all I can think of is Elaine and her crazy boyfriend who loves "Desperado." This was the weakest group overall, but two standout performances came from 59-year-old Leroy Bell (who looks about 32) and 22-year-old waitress Dani Knights.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Christina Uticone