Last night America 8.7 million viewers tuned in to watch yet another televised talent show, The X-Factor.

The winner, which can be an individual or a group, gets to walk away with a $5 million recording contract. And in today’s economy a prize of that magnitude is something most Americans would envy.

The contest is open to all ages 12 and older, with four celebrity judges — Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, Nicole Scherzinger and L.A. Reid.

Overall last night’s show was very entertaining. Filled with good and bad performances, emotional back stories, and enough momentum to keep viewers engaged from the first inflated second to the last.

For nine seasons on American Idol, Simon Cowell was known for his tough criticism, harsh comments and blatant disregard for the fragile feelings of the aspiring singers. This time L.A. Reid is the “tough judge,” with experience to back up his critiques.

Reid is a Grammy Award winning song writer, producer, and record executive responsible for launching the careers of industry heavyweights like Mariah Carey, Kanye West, Toni Braxton, TLC, Usher, Justin Bieber, Pink, Ciara and OutKast. Reid currently serves as chairman and CEO of the Epic Label Group.

During the opening montage of The X-Factor, Reid is seen hopping out of a helicopter as viewers listen to him talk about his decision to join the show.

“I was chairman of Island Def Jam, I had to walk away. I walked away from friends and a lot of money. I made a decision to take a shot at discovering the next generation of stars,” says Reid.In July the New York Post revealed that Reid was not pulling any punches about becoming the music industry’s next “Mr. Nasty,” as he joked during an Epic Records meeting that the label should e scrubbed of “ugly people.”

Sources said Reid allegedly told record executives “I don’t want no ugly people working here; I only want good-looking people.”

Prior to the premiere of The X Factor last night, many believed Reid would be meaner than Simon Cowell.

During the auditioning process which began months ago, Reid made several harsh comments to contestants, some of which made it into the press.

When a 52-year-old divorcee showed up to the Los Angeles audition in May, Cowell and Abdul politely encouraged the singer to perform another song after her original audition song proved ineffective. But Reid delivered the strongest blow to the singer’s ego as he asked, “When was the last time you performed? Whatever made you stop then, you should’ve stuck with that decision.”

Preliminary numbers show that the premiere of The X Factor did not stack up to the premiere of American Idol. Factor pulled in a smaller audience than the premiere of the tenth season of American Idol pulled in 16.4 million viewers of the same measurement.

The X Factor judges and contestants have their work cut out for them, if they expect to best the long standing ratings giant that is American Idol. Cowell has mastered the recipe for creating televised talent shows and Reid is arguably one of the most distinguished music executives of the current record industry. Perhaps Cowell decided to bring on L.A. Reid as a judge because he believed that his industry experience and talents could help propel the show’s talent to great heights, or possibly Reid’s presence on the show is the help Cowell no longer be the despised “mean judge.”

Fans of the Factor will have the final say in the show’s success, and will ultimately determine if Reid truly has a mean streak.