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Spears on show

(Reuters) / 12 September 2012

Britney Spears makes her debut this week as the biggest celebrity judge on U.S. television in a revamped version of The X Factor that is looking for its own special something in a stepped-up ratings battle with The Voice.

In what TV pundits expect to be a tough contest for the most viewers, The X Factor returns to Fox television for a second season, after The Voice moves to the fall slot on NBC.

Spears, 30, was tempted to join The X Factor by a reported $15 million salary after a 14-year singing career that made her the world’s biggest pop phenomenon of the 2000s.

X Factor creator Simon Cowell is banking on her huge fan base and a strong curiosity factor to give his show a second chance with audiences after a disappointing first season in 2011 that attracted about 12.5 million viewers, and ended with the firing of two judges and the host.

Spears is little known outside her stage persona and choreographed sell-out concerts of hit songs like Circus and Toxic.

But according to advance clips of early audition rounds, she has a sharp tongue for poor singers, and she is being promoted as competing with the sarcastic Cowell himself as the nasty judge on the show.

“She is surprisingly quite mean. She is difficult to please,” Cowell told reporters last week.

But Lovato said viewers were in for a surprise.

“I feel like the world hasn’t really got a chance to see her (Britney’s) personality over the last couple of years and now this is the perfect opportunity for people to see. She is very witty and funny and quirky,” the former Disney Channel star told reporters.

Cowell is also aware that it takes more than new judges - however famous - to make a show that will distinguish itself in a saturated TV talent show field.

He says X Factor has seen major tweaks this year. It will have more of a reality show element, with lots of behind the scenes action.

“You have got to make a different show to everybody else, otherwise they all blur into one,” Cowell said.

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