The X Factor: Oh, the drama! Oh, the weeping!

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Reid and Rihanna are the only ones not crying

Okay, I thought American Idol was getting bad. And I missed Simon Cowell. But the Next Big Thing, called The X Factor -- featuring not just Simon but Paula Abdul, along with L.A. Reid (who discovered Rihanna!) and Nichole Sherzinger (from Pussycat Dolls, and she once won Dancing With the Stars) -- is out of control.

Epic Fail Number One: The 32 semi-finalists are broken up into four categories -- girls, boys, over 30 and (gasp) groups. Four from each category move forward. That means four groups, even though almost all of the groups totally suck, four boys (although at least six of the girls were better than all but two of the boys) and four over 30s (well, I guess people over 30 deserve special consideration, particularly women who were once married to Ike Turner).

Epic Fail Number Two: The semifinal round is set at the judges "houses" (although I can't believe Simon, who appears only in his designer shades, actually lives full time in that glorious mansion in St. Tropez). L.A. Reid is a serious music dude, but his McMansion in the Hamptons is hideous. Paula is (of course) in Santa Barbara, and Nichole is (of course, maybe, if that's really her house) in Malibu. It's like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous; I desperately wanted to hear Robin Leach introduce the scenery.

Epic Fail Number Three: The Oct 18 show had no music at all. No entertainment. Just two hours of people getting kicked off (and weeping) or getting sent through (and weeping). We watched contestant after contestant bawling as the judges tried to drag out the drama as long as possible by saying things like "the news I have for you isn't good .... (weep, weep, sniff, my young life is ruined) ... actually, it's fantastic" (weep, weep, joy, hug Simon, I'm gonna be a contender). I've never seen so much mascara running down so many cheeks. Pepsi's the wrong sponsor; should have been Kleenex.

It's like Total Drama Mansions. I can't believe anyone (other than Vivian and me) actually sat through that whole thing.

The good news is that the homeless guy (Dexter Haygood) and the burrito maker (Josh Krajcik) made it through to the live performances starting next week. So did Rachel Crow, the 13-year-old from Colorado. Viv would have been boycotting the rest of the season if Simon had kicked her out.

As it is, sigh, we're still watching, and maybe next week someone will actually sing.