In the course of The X Factor’s two-hour finale, the Fox show crowned a winner, went overboard on Christmas sets and provoked screams out of dozens of teenage girls. You saw all that watching at home, but what didn’t you see? EW was on the scene for the taping of X Factor’s wrap-up to its sophomore season. Read on for 10 things going on at CBS Television City during the taping that you didn’t see on TV. Warning: spoilers ahead!
1. Leading up to the start of the show, the man in charge of revving up the audience was trying really hard to remind (or convince?) the crowd that it’s so cool that they get to be there. No less than 10 times, he announced that someone is getting a $5 million recording contract tonight. He repeatedly reminded the crowd of how many people attempted to get tickets for this (though that exact number was unclear – he fluctuated between 10,000 and 20,000). “This is the hottest ticket in town: The X Factor finale,” he said. (And, well, since One Direction was there, plenty of teenage girls would have a hard time arguing with that statement.)
2. When One Direction pre-taped their performance of “Kiss You” about 40 minutes before the live show started, the screams were expectedly deafening, and teenage girls were expectedly flustered upon getting a second to touch a One Direction boy’s hand (or butt, in some cases). The British boy band actually taped their performance twice — there was a take-2 because the lasers that were supposed to shoot out of the giant pair of lips weren’t working (but they didn’t end up working the second time around either). As far as I can tell, Fox ended up using the first taping of the song — Harry and Louis had some goofy dance moves going on the second time around that didn’t make the final cut — but used the second taping of host Mario Lopez’s chat with them. Oh, and if 1D’s interaction with Mr. Dimples last night is any reliable evidence, the youngest of the band is also the most hug-prone — Mario got a firm handshake from all four members, except Harry Styles, who gave him a big hug.
3. About 15 minutes before the show started, the eliminated contestants took the stage. Waiting for the show to start, a collection of them on stage right bided their time by getting their groove on. Lyric Da Queen of Lyric 145 taught Beatrice Miller, Jennel Garcia and CeCe Frey some shuffling footwork. Beatrice especially seemed very loose and free of all her pre-elimination nerves — every few seconds, a fellow eliminated contestant would say or do something that would send her into a fit of adorable laughter.
4. The judges didn’t stay near their table much at all during the commercial breaks last night, unlike the first week of live shows when they would often stick around to do a little mingling with fans. Last night, as soon as the show cut to break, they made their way offstage — which looked like a repeatedly laborious endeavor for Britney Spears in that long dress and high heels.
5. If last night’s episode seemed less than polished for you viewers at home, Mario and fellow host Khloé Kardashian Odom want you to know the blame goes to the technical difficulties. Khloé told reporters after the show, “Oh, there was a lot of technical difficulties. There was no prompter for a few minutes. There was no camera. We were like, ‘There’s no camera in front of us.’ They were like, ‘Oh wait, hold on a second!’” At one point, when Khloé was talking with the top three backstage, Mario was left alone onstage to hold down the fort. Typically, when a clip reel or anything being shot live backstage is airing, the in-house audience can see it on the center big screen. But nothing appeared on the LED screen that time, so Mario did what any good-looking man would do when caught alone in front of an audience momentarily lacking entertainment: He showed off his dance moves. But he told press later that his fancy footwork wasn’t so easy: “My pants were too tight, so I couldn’t bust a move. I really wanted to, but I was limited.”
6. How did those wild holiday-themed sets get changed out so quickly between songs? With a crew of about 15 men, speedily putting together each new set during commercial breaks. Sometimes they cut it pretty close: The merry-go-round horses set was finished about 10 seconds before the show went back on the air, and sometimes they’d continue working on assembling a set piece while the camera was on the hosts in another part of the stage.
7. The audience-energizer was eager to get the crowd cheering one last time for Fifth Harmony following their elimination, but if the girl-group got less than full and sincere applause, they can blame One Direction, or at least one-fifth of One Direction. This was about when girls in the audience started to realize that Niall Horan was in the audience, watching the show from the back row. A buzz swept through the crowd when his presence was detected. Tweens flapped their arms in glee when they realized they were sharing the same air with a 1Der again. Some flashed hand heart gestures at him. But, miraculously, he wasn’t mobbed. I wish I could report how he got his groove on when Pitbull performed, but by then he was no longer in his seat.
8. During the commercial break after Pitbull’s performance of “Don’t Stop the Party” (which shifted the vibe in the studio considerably), L.A. Reid took a few minutes to shake Pitbull’s hand and chat. So now you can start imagining what a collaboration between the artist who brought us “Give Me Everything” and the producer who brought us Usher’s “Yeah!” and Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” will sound like.
9. To prep for Khloé standing amongst the audience in the pit, talking to fans of each finalist, the crew really does make sure that fans of Tate Stevens and fans of Carly Rose Sonenclar are in their place. Crew members directed audience members to stand on either side of a mark — one side for Tate, one for Carly Rose — and some girls from the other pit walked over to represent Tate.
10. When Mario announced Tate Stevens as the winner, Tate and L.A. weren’t the only ones visibly celebrating. Over at the judges’ table, Simon Cowell fist-pumped the air and immediately leapt to his feet and into applause. “I was [excited],” Simon later told reporters of that moment. “Because I look at him and Carly — one is 13 years old, and the other is 37 and married with kids. My heart says it has to go to him because he needs it more than she does.”
Click here to read Annie Barrett’s recap of The X Factor‘s season 2 finale.
Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmilyNRome