Why “X Factor” Host Steve Jones Is Dreadful

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on November 21, 2011 – 6:23 AM

When promoting his upcoming singing competition “The X Factor” earlier this year, Simon Cowell boldly proclaimed that anything less than 20 million viewers per week would be a failure.

The most recent episode had just over nine million viewers. His show is a flop.

On paper, there’s not much difference between “American Idol” and “The X Factor.” Both shows have singing contestants with compelling back stories, both have had Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul as judges, and both have top-notch production.

There are two main differences. First, the chemistry among the judging panel is off – at times, the panelists appear to genuinely dislike one another. But more importantly, host Steve Jones is profoundly awful – think Rick Dees and Chevy Chase on late night bad.

It would be unfair to pin the show’s underwhelming performance solely on Steve Jones’s dreadful performance. But no other single factor is contributing as much to the show being virtually unwatchable.

The below clip doesn’t do justice to some of his worst moments (the show only makes a limited number of clips available), but it’s helpful if you haven’t seen him in action:

Here are at least three reasons Steve Jones is a miserable host:

1. He’s Not Having Any Fun: The judges regularly bicker with one another and rip on contestants  mercilessly. That’s bound to make the audience uncomfortable. But instead of diffusing the tension with a light and well-timed quip, Jones adds to the stress by looking anxious and uncomfortable. As a result, he makes the audience even more uncomfortable.

Mr. Jones began his career as a model. He knows how to smile, but if you’ve seen the show, you’d never believe it. He should look to his counterpart, American Idol’s Ryan Seacrest, who perfectly demonstrates the adage, “Never let them see you sweat.”

2. He’s Oddly Formal: It’s a singing competition, dude, not the first meeting with your future father-in-law. It’s hard to explain, for example, why Steve Jones calls the male contestants “sir.” There’s something odd about calling a 15-year-old hip hop artist named Astro “sir.” Charlie Rose is less formal when he interviews the Secretary of State.

3. He’s Not Connecting With The Contestants, The Judges, or The Audience: Mr. Jones has made virtually no on-air connection with anyone. When he interviews contestants who have just received bad reviews from the judges, for example, he’ll detachedly ask, “How do you feel?” before rushing them off stage with a hurried, “off you go.” It looks as if he’s so busy trying to keep track of all of the moving parts around him, that he’s unable to ever be fully in the moment and actually engage.

I rarely write about entertainment on this blog, and my strong critique of Mr. Jones may seem disproportionate to his crime as a lackluster host. But as a professional communicator, I can’t understand why Simon Cowell would have hired someone so clearly wrong for the job.

Mr. Cowell has only himself to blame for the show’s underperformance. If he wants to save his show for season two, he should start by replacing the host. I’d be glad to provide his replacement with some media training.

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Comments (10)

  1. By Tony:

    I could not agree more. Steve Jones not only doesn’t add to the show he makes it almost impossible to watch. He could not be more mechanical! Al Gore is more personable that Steve Jones!!

  2. By Blend:

    He is awful, but it’s strange, on T4 he was absolutely brilliant, cheeky, funny. What the hell has happened…?

  3. By Hum Hum:

    You’re dead wrong! There’s lot at stake here: $ 5 million and the Pepsi sponsorship.
    Steve is a professional, much more presentable in stairs and demeanor than Ryan and he is British! You can get more charming or professional than that!

  4. By Brad Phillips:

    Hum Hum,

    I’m not sure what being British has to do with Mr. Jones’ performance as a host; I think it’s fair to say that there are qualified and unqualified British hosts.

    I also believe you’re making my point for me by pointing out how much is at stake: with such a prize on the line, you’d think the show would want to put the best possible host on the show.

    Still, I will concede that the tone I used in the article was overly-harsh, and could have served just as well without as many pejorative adjectives. That said, I stand by the three points I made about where his performance is lacking. If he ever sees this story, I hope he’ll take that free advice seriously, as it will doubtlessly make his performance better – and diminish his chorus of critics (like me).

    Thanks for reading and writing,
    Brad

  5. By Oz:

    Steve is by far the most horrible host I ever saw.

    Personally, I’d like to see someone like Nick Cannon or those 2 guys from Britain’s got talent …
    They know how to host a show and make it look FUN !
    Even tho there is a 5 mil contract and pepsi commercial, i still believe that a show like this should be hosted by charming, funny hosts who also leave some time for the judges to give there opinions about acts, and not interrupt them as soon as they talk longer then 5 seconds..

    Steve has a knack of interrupting everyone. yes it’s live.. but still .. give them some breathing room man!

    and the fact he never smiles .. He comes across like a insurance salesman who hates his insurance company

    Please get another host for next season !

  6. By Andrew Johnson:

    Brad, you really hit the nail on the head when you wrote that he seems disconnected. This is a crucial quality to have in any on-air situation.

    I’m curious about what a few action items would be that he could implement to help his on-camera performance?

  7. By Brad Phillips:

    Andrew – Thank you for your comment and question.

    I heard Steve Jones interviewed recently, and he spoke extensively about his role as “time keeper” on the show. In that role, he prides himself on being able to hit the end of the live show on time without going over, and he’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that happens.

    Therefore, to enhance his performance, the first thing I’d tell him is that he has a fundamental misunderstanding of his job. I’d argue that playing time keeper, while an important part of his job, is secondary to establishing a genuine rapport with the contestants and judges. In contrast, Ryan Seacrest occasionally goes a couple of minutes over his program’s allotted time on American Idol, and no one seems to care – and his show is MUCH more watchable.

    So the first thing I’d tell him is to remember that he will be judged on the show’s level of fun, not whether or not he ends the program at 9:59:59.

    Second, I’d tell him to drop his ridiculously rigid rules for what he thinks should be happening on stage. He becomes visibly irritated if a contestant doesn’t leave the stage the second they’re supposed to, and he expresses his annoyance with the judges for “interfering” with his contestant interviews. Great hosts roll with the punches – Steve Jones is irritated when everything doesn’t go as it was originally scripted. As a result, his stress transfers to the audience, making the show a chore to watch.

    It will be interesting to see whether he returns for season two. The show needs an overhaul to grow, and in my view, Steve Jones is not part of a winning growth strategy.

    Thanks for reading!
    Brad

  8. By Mary Denihan:

    Hey Brad, Do you think Simon Cowell reads your blog? Looks like he took your advice.

  9. By Brad Phillips:

    Mary,

    I can’t imagine he does (but how cool would that be?). Mr. Jones’ performance was self-evidently bad, so I’m guessing he reached that conclusion on his own, probably long before I did.

    Thanks for reading!
    Brad

  10. By Helen Redfern:

    I’m British and we were very happy to wave him off on his way to America (and off our screens). Sadly he has come back. We obviously couldn’t palm him off on you!

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