I’m so late with a review of Saturday’s (and Sunday’s) X Factor “judges’ houses” double bill that it can hardly be called a review any more, but the truth is I was left with so little enthusiasm when faced with this year’s lacklustre final 12 it’s taken me until now to summon the energy to write anything about it. Ian Wylie’s excellent Life of Wylie column on the finalists and their journeys succinctly expresses my own views in its first few sentences. Manipulative, a parody of itself, and yet a seemingly unstoppable force in Saturday night television for the time being.
Previously I might have whipped up a run-down of the 12, with a bit of their
sobback stories, hopes and aspirations, but as Digital Spy has already done a good job of this, there seems little point in repeating it. So if the points have all been made, what’s left to say about this year’s X Factor? I’m sure I can find something.
You have to feel sorry for Louis’ bunch. Every year, the rest of the finalists get to jet off to somewhere exotic. Sharon takes her lot to LA, Simon entertains his crew at one of his many villas. Dannii Minogue, for her first “judges’ houses” experience chose Ibiza. Where do Louis’ contestants get to go? Dublin. Every year, Dublin. We can only assume Mr. Walsh is either too boring to own a home in an exotic location, too poor to own one, or he’s got one but he doesn’t want any X Factor wannabes cluttering the place up or spoiling its ambience with their muddy feet and tears.
Ah yes, tears. There were bucketloads this year, and not just from perennial cry-baby Luke – who didn’t make it through. In his case it was probably a Health & Safety issue. All that water; all that electrical gear – not a good mix. Tears don’t go down too well on highly polished stages either. Too slippery. So dry your eyes Luke, again, and maybe you’ll have better luck next year.
Also hoping they’ll have better luck next year is every single group who auditioned, apart from Same Difference. It’s hard to imagine a blander act than this brother and sister pair. In fact since there are two of them a far better name for their group would be The Bland Leading the Bland. The name they’re stuck with is almost as bad though. When you’re offered a choice of this or that and you reply “same difference” you might mean it’s no choice at all (you’d be right) or you might mean that you can’t be arsed to choose (you’d be right) or that you couldn’t give a toss about the question in the first place (and you’d still be right). Doesn’t bode too well for them, does it?
But at least Same Difference are a real group. They came and auditioned as a group and they have actually performed together long before they auditioned. The same cannot be said of manufactured confections Hope and Futureproof, bastardised agglomerations of no-hopers who each have about as much coherence as the glue they put on the back of Post-It notes. Amazingly, bookies have already made these the favourites to win (the boys at 4/1; the girls 5/1). Just goes to show you can never predict how mad things will get. The whole set-up smells like the worst pile of doos you ever trod in and just proves Wylie’s point about how manipulative the show is.
Watching the final 24 acts going through their “last chance” to make it big, I came back to the inescapable question: “Is this really the best they could find from 200,000 auditionees?” The answer is, of course it isn’t. This is the mix they wanted in the final to create the kind of TV show they were aiming for. There’s a couple of pop-star lookie-likees for the tweenies to scream over, a couple of heart-rending stories of personal hardship (“there’s just me and me mam and I want to make life better for us” etc etc). It’s all designed to maximise the revenue from the viewers’ vote. Who can have doubted, from the moment they heard that her application form had been found in her dead Dad’s effects, that Niki Evans wouldn’t make it to the final?
There must also be at least one unpopular contestant for the inevitable “vote for the worst” pack to support. This year, it’s Rhydian, and he’s already gone public with his manufactured outrage at being made to “look like an idiot.” He’s threatened to quit. Really? Call his bluff then. Go on, I dare you. Oh, no, wait a minute, it’s already too late. Even by the end of that (very short) DS article, Rhydian has changed his mind and wants to “…try and get his real personality across on the live shows and hope people warm to him.” Good luck mate. Global warming is melting the polar icecaps so there’s at least a chance the British public will warm to you.
Sorry if this all seems a little cynical, but that’s the watchword for The X Factor. It is cynicism personified. And yet, while some of us might wish for a show based solely on the talent of the auditionees without any tear-jerking, fast-tracking, trick editing or falsification whatever, seven-and-a-half million people a week continue to lap it all up. And so far at least, I’m one of ‘em.