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SOUND OFF: THE X FACTOR & GLEE Times Three

This week marked the third X FACTOR/GLEE combo Thursday on Fox and both shows continued to deliver the chill-inducing trills and riff-tastic runs we have come to expect from the entertainment extravaganzas showing off TV's top vocalists, performers, celebrities, hottest songs and guest stars. Evidently, Sarah Jessica Parker and Britney Spears sure can spice up and heat up a quickly cooling late-late-September autumnal soup!

You Had Me At 'Makeover'

Bedecked with recklessly bounding and treacherously tumbling superhero-outfitted supporting players gallivanting about the stage in a flurry of masks, capes, tights and brightly-colored polyester, Blaine (Darren Criss)'s soulful, full-voiced "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" (originally popularized by 80s group Tears For Fears) was a quite brilliantly brought-off beginning to GLEE's third episode of the fourth season, appropriately titled "Makeover" (written by co-creator Ian Brennan and directed by GLEE stalwart Eric Stoltz), especially since it was ostensibly centering on various upcoming elections; McKinley High's and America's itself, most especially. And, Brittany (Heather Morris) got her second episode focus in as many weeks, even joining Trouty Mouth-ed Sam (Chord Overstreet) in a fiery Hole homage duet, highlighting the seemly "pound of flesh" portion of the lyric in an iteration that the queen of grunge herself, Courtney Love, may even have been a bit enthused about - or whatever you would call apropos appreciation given her purportedly dodgy disposition. Away from Lima, OH, and in the NYC-set other half of the new GLEE S4.0, Blaine's long distance boyfriend Kurt (Chris Colfer) pulled off his VOGUE internship application interview with glittering GLEE guest star Sarah Jessica Parker as VOGUE editor Isabelle Klempt with a flying, flag-wave-worthy rainbow cascade of colors (and matching hippo broach, natch), but, on the other side of midtown, Rachel (Lea Michele) continued to struggle with her conflated and confused feelings - not only about NYADA and whether or not she can make it there, but also whether she and MIA Finn can weather the ever-tumultuous storm. As a result of all that pent-up emotion unexpressed (as well as increasing affection for a new paramour, perhaps), Rachel's first duet with S4 GLEE NYC add-on MVP Brody (Dean Geyer) was given some stirring, sexy undercurrents in their enacting of Sheryl Crow's "A Change Would Do You Good" (which otherwise would seem a negligible song choice if not for the theme-fitting lyrical gist of it all, the song itself falling a bit short of their breathless "amazing" exclamation, though they undoubtedly gave the performance their all, moist and ample chemistry covering almost all). Subsequently, in the NYC portion of the now double-location series, the amusingly-plotted dramatic justification for the opportunity to give us the second ANNIE song shown on Fox last night (one wonders: could that have been planned?) - coming after "Tomorrow" at the close of THE X FACTOR, of course - was genially accepted with relish and a sparkling twinkle in the eye, resulting in a successful showstopper thereby offered forth with appreciable aplomb by the performers; Rachel, joining Kurt and Isabelle with an enlivened, lavishly-rendered dream closet-inhabiting production number set to a witty mash-up of "You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile" (ha ha) and the classic Great American Songbook chestnut "The Way You Look Tonight" (ha ha - part deux). Tres chic!

The music took the backseat to the plot last night on GLEE and on the dramatic and thematic side of the show the main idea seemed to be that everybody's position was up for debate and up for grabs - at school, at work, in life; all over. As Sam innocently questioned, "What is a debate?" And, as stupid as it may sound to say out loud, we all may be asking the self-same question come this time in two weeks following what is sure to be a must-see presidential debate kick-off. Additionally, back at McKinley High, GLEE presented the shocking possibility of an upcoming absence for Mr. Schu (Matthew Morrison) due to his application and apparent acceptance to a far-away teaching initiative, even despite his impending engagement to Miss Pillsbury (Jayma Mays), and, following last year's unfortunately unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign, Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) dipped her toe back into politics anyway - for the good of the kids(?) - and gave us all a generous dose of her characteristic off-the-wall sass and brass as has come to be expected of her but has been all too infrequent so far in S4; look no further than "the pimp and the gimp" comment. Enough said. Sam's (vice) presidential grooming and shepherding by born-in-the-blue-blood-leader (and born-to-be square) Blaine in the myriad ways of impressing an audience in an appropriate and adult manner may have fallen on deaf (and, let's be honest, pretty dumb) ears given Sam's predilection for provocative displays of enthusiasm (emphasis on adult, in this case), but it would be impossible to beat Britney to the bottom of that barrel of that strongly-brewed dumb-rum. What will Blaine and Sam's political alliance - Blaine ultimately becoming chief-in-command - mean for McKinely's continued growing acceptance of perceived others amongst the herd. Shall slushies still be spilled sooner or later? While there was nary an ice crystal to witness melt last night, we cannot be too far away from the next bout of slushie showers.

Also of special historical note, just-passed-away crooner Andy Williams was paid tribute with an underscore playing of the iconic Henry Mancini/Johnny Mercer BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S ballad "Moon River" that he made famous. Is it yet another eerie coincidence in the impossible-to-plan tradition of GLEE - last year a Whitney tribute song hitting the air a mere few days following her untimely death being the most recent morbidly, prophetic example. Fame and fate is a very funny thing - particularly in the way it all plays out - is it not? And, what a cliffhanger ending of an episode - what exactly will Finn (Cory Monteith) say to Rachel now? It looks clear to see from next week's preview, GLEE 4.4 will be impossible to miss.

Just The Way You Are (Now)

LMFAO's "Sexy And I Know It" flamboyantly offered by a tween to Annie's "Tomorrow" done by a "Baby, One More Time"-era Britney-outfitted girl to some truly painful song-strangling, it is no mincing of words to state Wednesday night's two-hour helping of THE X FACTOR no doubt featured many more enjoyable acts than Thursday night's generally bizarre and limited coterie, yet the sole musical theatre number showcased on the second season so far - one from an upcoming 2013 Broadway revival, no less - came courtesy of a caterwauling ANNIE homage ala aforementioned Jordyn Foley, leading to an ANNIE (movie), Brooklyn Bridge-set finale for the hour-long show following her acceptance into boot-camp. Really? They have passed up far greater talent than that. The same could also be said of the questionable virtues of Trevor Moran's unexceptional and over-the-top LMFAO camp-fest, which the judges inexplicably lapped up on Thursday. Why so? Maybe you had to be there. So, too, were a few otherwise questionable acts allowed into the next round, with the judges displaying a all-too-amiable and dare-I-say dangerously gregarious nature over the course of this week's three-hour double-dose - yet, next week, it's sink, swim or shine, no matter what. So, in the end, all things considered, perhaps a positive vibe at this early stage of the competition is best to be imparted given the blows to hopefuls and home viewers alike unavoidably awaiting us over the next several weeks as we whittle down the competition further still, week by week, until we discover and crown the winner of the competition and its $5 million dollar grand prize (and recording contract).

As Simon himself said at the second episode's conclusion, "We've had some good days and some bad days", and, as always, he makes a spot-on assertion for what has come to pass thus far on the second season of the rebooted reality competition series THE X FACTOR as we know it, now with added judges Demi Lovato and pop princess Britney Spears contributing immeasurably to all of the proceedings; both reinvigorating the evidently somewhat flagging ship. By a whole lot, too - not that that is to take anything away from the incalculable wisdom and insight offerrd by relevant industry veterans like LA Reid and Simon Cowell. And, while the juiciest fruits of the harvest are most assuredly waiting for us still, hidden away in the months ahead - particularly when the live shows kick in in a few weeks time - there have been a remarkable number of highlights in the journey so far. It will be a while before the auditions of some of these contestants that have taken place over the last few weeks fall away from my memory, at least - and, most notably, this week we were treated to three knockouts in particular (with two of them coming from Thursday's otherwise disappointing final pre-taped audition compilation episode, admittedly): David Correy's spine-tingling take on the international Bruno Mars balladic smash "Just The Way You Are"; Lauren Jauregui's passionate and precocious cover of the Alicia Keys R&B hit "If I Ain't Got You"; and, near-five-hundred-pound, wheelchair-bound Freddie Combs revealing tear-inducing heart and soul with Bette Midler's classic "Wind Beneath My Wings". So, too, were there other strong standouts over the two nights, but at this point it is altogether impossible to predict what is yet to be revealed insofar as nearly every element goes, let alone who looks even close to likely of winning it all. We are barely through the first round, after all! So, next week? Boot Camp!

THE X FACTOR and GLEE Thursday night double-dose has quickly become the finest premiere powerhouse for performance-based entertainment on TV and we have a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks and months thanks to their multitude of striking, stylish charms. Sometimes a do-over does a world of good. Burt Bacharach and Hal David might have written "Don't Make Me Over", but, in these particular cases, I say: please do.

Evidently, there is nothing quite like a fresh coat of paint - or, sometimes, just a fresh coat.

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