By John Young
Updated December 08, 2011 at 12:05 PM EST
Credit: Fox
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Wilt Chamberlain. Godzilla. That baby from Honey, I Blew Up the Kid. All were shorter than the man standing in front of me at The X Factor last night, which is simply my way of saying that I had a wee bit of trouble observing any off-camera drama inside the Xanadome. But compromised vantage point notwithstanding, I do have a few what-you-didn’t-see-on-TV tidbits I’d like to discuss. Let’s begin, as all X Factor conversations should, with some confetti.

Brooms, get a room: Melanie Amaro started off the dance-music themed show by performing a song by an artist synonymous with dance music: Adele. (And don’t get me started on those dancers — a metallic cloned army of Mortal Kombat‘s Scorpion.) During the climax of “Someone Like You,” confetti machines started showering the stage with little shreds of paper. If the producers of X Factor learn anything from last night, it should be this: If you’re going to employ confetti machines, don’t use them for the opening number.

During every commercial break for the rest of the show, stagehands were hard at work trying to clean up all that confetti. During the first break, there was only one guy out there with a vacuum. That clearly wasn’t going to get the job done. By the next break, there were two vacuums running, plus a pair of brooms. Then there were four brooms. About 30 minutes later, the number of brooms had multiplied from four to ten. For all we know, if the brooms kept on reproducing at the same rate, there are now 37,840,219 broomsticks currently cleaning the X Factor stage. And don’t you even consider chopping those brooms into tiny pieces.

Pepsi Challenge “error”: For their second performance, the acts were supposed to sing songs that were selected by viewers as part of a Pepsi Challenge tie-in. Instead, Steve revealed that there was some kind of “error in communication” with the song selections, causing the Pepsi Challenge songs to be moved to next week’s show.

Backstage, none of the contestants could really elaborate on what this “error” might have been. “I guess it just couldn’t be done,” said Marcus Canty. Added Josh Krajick: “They called a meeting, said there was an error, and that’s all they told us.”

It all sounds suspicious to me. Did the show have trouble obtaining the rights to a song? Or was this a manufactured ploy to create some drama? Or did Coca-Cola win the Pepsi Challenge?

Warm-up déjà vu: Bill the Warmup Host does a pretty commendable job keeping the audience energetic throughout the show’s duration. He gives away t-shirts and tickets to the finale, and always manages to find some kid in the audience who says something adorable. (This week Bill asked a boy why he was at The X Factor. The kid’s response: “I just wanted to come down and rock out.”) But if you attend The X Factor (or American Idol for that matter) more than once, you’ll soon realize that all warmup hosts have a single routine that they’ll repeat at every single show.

Among Bill’s repertoire of repeated jokes, one is dear to my heart. Before the show starts, Bill asks the audience to raise their hands if this is the first time they’ve ever been to The X Factor. Nearly everyone raises their hand. Then Bill quickly asks us to raise our hands if we’ve never been here before. Only about half of the audience does so. “That’s the same question!” Bill exclaims. The audience chuckles. The birds are chirping. All is right with the world.

Practice makes perfect: One noticeable difference between Steve Jones and Idol host Ryan Seacrest is how they spend their commercial breaks. Seacrest, now a veteran at hosting, usually disappears during breaks to crank out 53 tweets. Jones, on the other hand, is still getting a hang of things. As a result, Jones usually stays onstage and starts rehearsing his lines on the teleprompter. This has a humanizing effect on Jones, at least during the breaks. (Whether he’s too stiff on camera is another topic.) Whereas Seacrest is a machine who could host Idol on 30 minutes of sleep and a Red Bull, Jones is one of us — a little nervous, but trying his best.

Introducing Clive: Before legendary record producer and music executive Clive Davis was mentioned on the show, L.A. Reid grabbed the mic during a break and introduced Davis to the audience. “That’s my hero,” said Reid.

Rachel’s teacher: During one break, Bill interviewed a woman in the audience who turned out to be Rachel Crow’s first-grade teacher. When asked to share a memory of Rachel, the teacher said that the young singer’s smile could always brighten her day. (If you want to feel particularly old, let me point out that Rachel was in the first grade just seven years ago.)

So happy together: When I last attended The X Factor three weeks ago, I wrote that the contestants didn’t seem to have the same camaraderie as the American Idol singers. But now I stand corrected. As the recap video played at the end of the show, the top five were a close-knit group. Josh and Marcus placed their arms on one another’s shoulders. Rachel and Chris pretended to rap to the latter’s “Live Your Life” number. Marcus danced to Rachel’s song, while Chris sang along to Marcus’ clip. The contestants’ familial behavior was almost enough to make you forget they’re competing against one another for $5 million. Almost.

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The X Factor

Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland, and Paulina Rubio judge Season 3.
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