[photo: Michael Rozman/Warner Bros.]Perhaps no one on "The X Factor" other than Astro has garnered as much scorn as host Steve Jones, whose abrupt manner has irked judges, contestants, and viewers alike. Steve's crude and clumsy attempts to keep the show moving along at a brisk pace and not preempt "Bones" have caused L.A. Reid to flash him multiple death stares, Simon Cowell to tell him to "shut it for a second," and even sweetie Paula Abdul to snarl, "It's not going to be that quick!" when Steve tried to rush her hemming and hawing during one results-night deliberation. Steve's callous handling of some of the young contestants on several results nights--cutting off Paula when she was trying to console castoff teen duo the Brewer Boys, blatantly ignoring the sobbing of eliminated underage group InTENsity, rudely telling Lakoda Rayne "the dream is over" (a comment that spurred one of the Lakodas to actually yank the mic out of his hand and tell him off)--has not won him many fans either. As a result, some viewers are already rallying to have Steve sacked, and rumors have run rampant that he will be replaced in Season 2 or shipped back to England (where his seemingly cold demeanor may play better) to host the U.K. version of the show.
But you know what? Steve Jones is not a bad guy. He's just misunderstood, and/or maybe just a bit out of his depth. When I interviewed him backstage at the first "X Factor" live show a few weeks ago, he came across as a thoroughly pleasant and charming fellow, and when he appeared on "The Ellen Show" this Tuesday afternoon, that same Nice Steve came out to play.
On "Ellen," Steve cracked jokes. He actually smiled. He poked good-natured fun at himself. He even stripped off his shirt, flashing his fit former-male-model torso for the delighted housewives in the audience. So....where has THIS Steve Jones been all season on "The X Factor"? Seriously now, Nice Steve is a host that America could actually love, or at least not hate.
To be fair, the pressures of producers barking in an earpiece every 10 seconds, not to mention the pressures involved with trying to get Paula Abdul to be succinct, would be tough to handle for even the most seasoned emcee. Even the king of reality hosting, Ryan Seacrest himself, couldn't always deal with it. (Remember the many "American Idol" episodes that went overlong in Season 8? Or how Season 7's David-vs.-David finale ran past 10pm, so that anyone who'd DVR'd the show had their recordings frustratingly cut off right after Ryan said "David..." but before he said "...Cook"?) Ryan, however, usually doesn't the let pressure get to him, except for that one bizarre Season 9 night when he cracked up and slow-danced in the audience during Tim Urban's performance.
But I digress. What I am trying to say is, maybe Steve Jones is just not cut out for the rigors of live television hosting, and would be better off hosting a pre-taped program, something more along the lines of "The Sing-Off" or "Project Runway" or "The Glee Project," on which he could relax a bit and let his real personality come out without fearing the wrath of Simon, L.A., or clockwatching producers. However, I suggest that if Steve wants to keep his job next season, he start acting more like the affable chap seen in the "Ellen" video above (or in the bonus video below, of my own interview), and never tell anyone "the dream is over" ever again.