Most people would be content if the summertime never came to an end.  Most summers I feel the selfsame way.  But even as I float along on a cheap blow up raft in my tacky, above ground pool, sipping lovely, white Bordeaux, I somehow cannot wait for fall.   Or better yet, I cannot wait for September 21 when Simon Cowell’s new baby is born.  Okay, new, old baby to be exact.  The X Factor is set to debut in the U.S. just two days before the autumn equinox.  A perfect change of season.  My tacky pool will be drained, my cheap raft deflated, and I will be comfortably seated in my favorite red chair, sipping a rich, red Bordeaux with a giant smile on my face as I watch the premiere episode.

I only joined the American Idol viewing audience three seasons ago when Adam Lambert was competing.  I saw one of the early episodes that season quite by accident.  Adam was auditioning with “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen.  My first thought was, “Don’t do it you fool, NO ONE can sing that song, but Freddy and Freddy has been pushing daisies for sometime now.” But then Adam opened his mouth and I just about dropped my standard glass of red Bordeaux.  I fell so in love with Adam’s talent that I was hooked.  I spent the entire season rooting him on, voting multiple times on speed dial after every episode.  I had not been this excited about anyone since I was a wee little girl and Duran Duran was hot on the charts.  I had a gay crush on Adam and I was like a seven-year old with a sugar high at a Bieber concert.  I was totally convinced that there was no way that Adam could lose that competition.  Totally convinced.  And Simon Cowell affirmed my opinion every week when he praised Adam for his clearly superior, unique and thrilling talent.

Simon made no bones about his opinion when it came to Adam.  But that is Simon’s way.  He made no bones about it when it came to any of the other contestants as well.  I almost always agreed with Simon and I imagine if Simon had the only vote that season, Adam would have won.  Yet, Adam didn’t win. And in 2010, Crystal Bowersox didn’t win despite Simon’s constant litany of praise that was thrown at her.

Two years in a row the most talented person came in second.  I was baffled, befuddled and pissed off, two years in a row.  In 2011, without Simon at the helm, the most talented people were voted off so early that it blew my mind.  Pia Toscano’s exit was a tragedy.  But at least we had James Durbin, right?  Wrong, James left well before he should have.  Okay Scotty McCreery has a nice voice but first place?  Wow.

The last three seasons of American Idol have left me with two very strong emotions:

#1: I love and miss Simon Cowell.

#2: I am insanely frustrated that America has a love affair with second best.

On point number one: Simon Cowell can be called myriad names, most of which are not endearing.  He is brash, outspoken, mean, cranky and humorless.  Simon is offensive and insensitive.  He is no better than a playground bully, right?  Wrong.  Simon should be America’s best friend. If for no other reason, we should want Simon in our lives because Simon tells the truth.  He might not tell it with a nice, little, candy coat wrapped around it.  But just like you trust your best friend to tell you the absolute truth, America trusts Simon to be brutally honest.  And it would appear that America needs that.

Which leads to point number 2: The outcomes of the last three seasons of American Idol are clear evidence that America loves second best.  In 2010 when Crystal Bowersox and (Pardon me, I can’t remember his name right now so I am going to have to Google it).

WRITING PAUSE

Okay, I’m back.

In 2010 when Crystal Bowersox and Lee DeWyze (I swear I would have not come up with that on my own. Thank you, Google) went head to head in the finals, Crystal was spot on.  She sang perfectly. Her instrument was strong, fluid, in pitch and captivating.  She had a great time and she was fun to watch.  Lee choked.  He was often off key, he was clumsy and despite a season-long pleading from the judges to loosen up and have fun, Lee looked like he was undergoing a prostate exam.  But Lee WON.  The year before the Bowersox upset, Adam Lambert dazzled with perfect vocals and tremendous showmanship.  Chris (I can’t remember his last name and I refuse to go to Google again) was, in my humble opinion, muted, boring and vocally fine but unexceptional.  And Chris won.  (Editor’s Note: It’s Kris Allen) There you have it, America loves second best.  Or at least the Americans that are willing to make 150 voting phone calls for a TV competition love second best.

Tragic as it seems, perhaps America loves second best merely because the only people that are willing to vote, ad infinitum, are not yet old enough to recognize that talent trumps a teenaged crush. But what can you really expect when your competitors are not allowed to be older than 28? The American Idol age cap is a significant part of the outcome of the competition.  And that is where The X-factor comes in and where it may very well take over.

Sure Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler proved a great trio, and sure the ratings went up.  But they all handled their contestants with kid gloves, probably because all of the contestants were, well, KIDS. Some were as young as 15.  All season long, I hungered for someone to tell it like it was, rather than finding something nice to say.  This is a competition, folks, and just like there is no crying in baseball, there is no playing nice-nice in a talent show.  Simon still would have barbequed most of them, regardless of their tender years, and he would have been my hero indeed. From January 2011 till May 2011, I longed to find a sooth sayer in the midst of so many ass kissers.  Oh, well, we wouldn’t want the kids to develop a tougher skin in this business, now would we?

The X Factor’s age cap is, oh right, it doesn’t have one.  Brilliant.  Now Simon can be as much of a best friend as he has to be. He can openly point to the booger hanging out of the nose of the American public and tell us it is there.  Thank you, best friend.  And Simon will not be nearly as vilified for his candor when his contestants run the gamut of age.  The X Factor is about seeking out true talent, no matter what the packaging might look like or how long it has sat on the shelf.  And when one is looking for true talent, some things are just not subjective.  Either you are on pitch, or you aren’t. Either you are musically gifted or you aren’t.  We are more likely to uncover another Susan Boyle (no I didn’t Google it) on the X Factor than on American Idol because there will undoubtedly be a cross section of people who have had much more time to hone their talents than a 15-year old.  Susan Boyle was 47 when she competed on Britain’s Got Talent and she deserved to win.  She came in second to a dance troupe, but had this competition been limited to vocal performers only, she clearly would have been the winner.  Despite the lack of teenaged crushes in Susan’s career, she has sold millions of records.  TALENT TRUMPS A TEENAGED CRUSH.  And talent does not disappear on your 29th birthday.  The age factor alone will increase the stakes and demand that a higher level of talent be present in order to compete.

The X Factor is going to be a true competition and I can’t wait to spend some time with my best friend again.  I’m pretty sure that Simon won’t let anyone by with a booger on his/her face.  And we might want to thank him for that.  Isn’t that what best friends are for?