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Unzipping The Male 'X Factor'

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Back in the 1970s, there was a lot of discussion about the way TV executives were grabbing ratings with female jiggle. "T and A," it was called. The jiggle continues, but now it's coming from somewhere else. So far, the hot new trend of the 2011 TV season is ... dangling male genitalia. That's full-frontal male nudity... hidden behind graphic effects.

CBS was thrilled the Sept. 19 premiere of its reboot of the sleazy "Two and a Half Men" drew gonzo ratings. After all the Charlie Sheen drama, how could his TV character's funeral not attract a crowd? But that wasn't enough for Chuck Lorre and Co. They had to debut actor Ashton Kutcher in the nude. First, Kutcher pulled the pixilated-nudie stunt Monday afternoon on the season debut of the Ellen DeGeneres show. Then they repeated it on CBS Monday night -- twice. The opening gag of the season is that Kutcher's character has a stunning endowment.

On Fox's "The X Factor," the network is ripping off its own "American Idol" formula, complete with former "Idol" judges Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul. But the "X" could stand for X-rated content. On the Sept. 21 premiere, the second hour began with what should be called an obscene five-minute prank.

"Idol" always airs wacky and untalented oddballs in its audition phase, but has featured nothing like the contestant named Geo Godley at the "X Factor" auditions in Seattle. As he began performing his own ridiculous song called "I'm a Stud," he dropped his pants and displayed his male parts for the studio audience. Fox playfully covered his crotch with the show's red X logo.

If this were an actual, unwelcome surprise, Godley would have been escorted off the stage in seconds by security staff like the human garbage he is. Instead, Fox milked the entire stunt for five minutes. First, he started singing the stupidly awful song. Then he dropped his pants. Fox even showed a close-up with the X. We saw revolted crowd shots. We saw appalled judge takes. Then he pulled up his pants and kept singing.

Then he dropped his pants again. Paula Abdul acted sick to her stomach and cameras tracked her all the way to a bathroom. On and on ... and on it went. We got to hear Paula puking. Then the remaining judges, one by one, denounced the performance.

Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls said, "I'm a little traumatized." Soul music producer L.A. Reid said it was "offensive, disgusting, distasteful, upsetting." Cowell put on his angry face: "What the bloody hell was that? I came here and I put 5 million dollars on the line, and ... that appeared. I don't know what you were thinking."

Oh, come on. This was expected -- and milked by Fox. The better question is: What was Fox thinking? The network that's supposed to be airing a show trying to attract a family audience with millions of children watching is expected to edit this garbage out of the show. Fox did the opposite. It exploited the scene to grab eyeballs and ad revenue.

The segment ended with Abdul returning to the stage to applause for her apparent disgust. She looked into the camera and said, "I just witnessed a nightmare on stage. It literally got me sick." So why is Fox sickening the public?

This is not atypical of Cowell's "X Factor" folks. A similar publicity ploy emerged in the U.K. The flasher in this case was a fan, reported The Sun newspaper: "The incident took place on Wednesday as the panel introduced the first episode of the new series, to be screened on ITV1 tomorrow. A massive 200,000 fans applied to be in the audience...and the flasher was one of only 700 who won tickets. ...The fan's shocking behavior was seen by several audience members sitting nearby -- including children." Notice the flasher conveniently pulled this stunt right around the series premiere.

When the Parents Television Council filed a complaint against Fox with the FCC, a new line of defense emerged. The blog Reality Blurred claimed Godley wasn't even naked. An audience member reported he was wearing a leopard-print thong. The blogger also noted Godley wore a thong in his YouTube audition video, further removing the idea that anyone at Fox didn't know what kind of indigestion they were manufacturing for the folks at home.

So now Fox is elaborately (set ital) faking (end ital) male nudity? That's going to be their defense? They will do anything, including sending Abdul to fake-vomit over the fake-flasher.

The show's host, Steve Jones, told The Sun the real story about Godley: "I spoke to Simon backstage after and asked him what he thought. He said it was probably his favorite audition ever -- and I agreed."

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