The X Factor

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

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  



REALITY

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.

Boss

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

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  



DRAMA

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.

YOU'VE GOTTA SEE THIS ...

THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF NEW JERSEY

The season 3 reunion begins-but where the cannoli is Jacqueline Laurita? AWOL! Bravo, Oct. 16.

CASE HISTORIES

Jason Isaacs is a quiet, rough-edged charmer as an Edinburgh detective. PBS's Masterpiece Mystery, check local listings.

WELCOME TO SWEETIE PIE'S

Peppy reality show about soul-food queen Robbie Montgomery. OWN, Saturdays.

In season 2, AMC's The Walking Dead (premiering Oct. 16) definitely ups the ante on zombastic gore. Check out the barely digested gunk ripped from a monster's belly! But if the queasy horror remains foolproof-the rotting dead rise up and stagger toward the living like tired mall shoppers heading for the food court-the opening episodes make a mess of the human narrative. There are not one but two children in peril, and we watch as one of them screams in pain while being operated on without anesthesia. That's not horror, it's sadism. Andrew Lincoln, at least, is even better this time as the sheriff fighting for the world's survival-a wiry, tired jitteriness has crept in.

bgwhite bgwhite   



FREAKY AFTER FRIDAY

HOW HAVE YOU BEEN HOLDING UP SINCE FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS ENDED?

It was hard to say goodbye. I could've played my character forever. I loved the show, and it will always be the benchmark. It's been bittersweet.

NOW YOU'VE MOVED ON TO THE HORROR GENRE. DO YOU LIKE SCARY STORIES?

I'm the biggest baby! The first horror movie I watched was The Exorcist. I was terrorized. From then on, all my friends were out watching the Friday the 13th movies and I was home sucking my thumb.

WHAT FRIGHTENS YOU NOW?

Spiders! I live near the hiking trails in L.A., and when I go hiking, I'll see gigantic, hairy spiders crawling. It's a little irrational, but I'll run away screaming.

ANY HALLOWEEN PLANS?

I'm low-key when it comes to Halloween. I don't even dress up my two dogs in costumes. They would look at me and be like, "You're dressing us up as ghosts? It's not happening!"