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Picks and Pans Main: TV

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The X Factor

FOX, Wednesdays & Thursdays, 8 p.m. ET/PT |


Like American Idol on steroids, Simon Cowell’s singing competition The X Factor came to town a few weeks ago thumping its chest. If the show so far isn’t the ratings giant everyone predicted, that’s probably because superior production values, an obscenely large prize ($5 million record deal) and even the reunion of Cowell with his weeping marionette, Paula Abdul, have yet to make up for the show’s lack of fresh novelty in a now-crowded field. True, the judges, including L.A. Reid and Nicole Scherzinger, will be coaching separate teams-but NBC’s The Voice already anticipated that. Still, the talent is good, and on the long road to announcing a top 16, the show is expertly milking every drop of pathos. Who will forget the girl-boy duet Makenna & Brock-they each silently pined for the other! Once live performances kick off Oct. 25, we’ll finally get some spontaneity. The show’s only serious goof was bringing in Scherzinger to replace British singer Cheryl Cole. In the episodes in which she appeared, Cole was plainspoken and sweet without the smarmy self-regard of the other judges. She would have been a star.


Starz, Oct. 21, 10 p.m. ET/PT |


Kelsey Grammer takes on his first big dramatic series-about a devious Chicago mayor whose mind is being undone by an incurable disease-and gives a titanic performance. Mayor Tom Kane’s orders and commands rumble around in Grammer’s jowls like thunder in a cloud bank. But the quiet moments of panic are just as fine. Connie Nielsen, as his first lady, is also terrific: cold, alienated, calculating. They’re the Macbeths of the Windy City. The show’s many subplots are handled clumsily, but these two are too good to pass up.