The X Factor turns to the Z(zzzzz) Factor

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.

The X Factor releases its own fragrance

We all know how popular The X Factor is. Simon, Sharon and co.’s bitchy catfights bring in over 8million viewers for ITV on a Saturday night, and it is this viewer loyalty that has encouraged the reality show to launch its own scent. Yes, you too can smell like those lunatic contestants always sweatily waving their arms about in an ‘x’ shape or Simon Cowell in his high-waisted trousers. Apparently “the men’s version smells of lemon, bergamot, lime, apple and pineapple, while the women’s has a floral scent.” So no undertones of Louis Walsh’s morning breath? Shame.

Manufacturers of the perfumes, ScentUps claim it will help its wearers become “part of the excitement and glamour of becoming a pop star”. With vendor The Fragrance Shop adding “Since the talent show phenomenon first launched there has been massive debate about just what constitutes the X factor and more importantly who has it, and now it’s been bottled for everyone.” I fear for the future of civilization when such ‘must-have’ items are launched. If this is the fabled dawn of scratch’n’sniff TV, will we now be able to smell like any of our television favourites? Big Brother, Doctor Who, How Clean is your House? The possibilities for pointless pongs are endless.

[via Digital Spy]

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TV Review: Secret Diary of a Call Girl (2/8), ITV2, Thursday 4 October,10pm

I missed last week’s opener, but according to MediaGuardian’s report of the viewing figures Billie Piper’s introduction to the secret life of Belle de Jour was an instant hit, attracting 1.8 million viewers and providing the channel’s biggest audience in 13 months not to mention being the best rating non-terrestrial commission so far this year. But as that article points out, this series has been heavily trailed and the heady combination of a scantily-clad Piper in a story basically concerning sex and the different ways men want it was hardly likely to be a wallflower.

This week’s story (and I use the term loosely, because the plot was skimpier than Piper’s little-black-something) was full of atmospheric and claustrophobic camera work and was indeed beautiful to look at from every angle, but I’ll be very interested to see how the overnight viewing figures stack up against last week’s. From what I saw there’s very little here to hold the interest of anyone who doesn’t have a Nuts subscription.

Much was made in the days and weeks before this lineup of lustful lingerie tripped titillatingly across our televisions of how hard Billie Piper had found it to perform the sex scenes. So either she’s a much better actress than I (or even she!) realised, or the acting wasn’t that much of a stretch for her. She appeared to be perfectly at home and delivered her lines as naturally as lines delivered direct to camera ever can be.

I didn’t like it in Alfie (either the 1966 or the 2004 versions) and the technique has not improved in the intervening 40 years, but she carried it off passably well. The trouble was no amount of dramatic monologue, or lush costumery, or plush sets or tricksy camera direction could hide the fact that there isn’t much story here. To fill an entire half-hour with the vacuous goings-on at an “adult club for partners” was more an exercise in endurance that entertainment – a frighteningly accurate metaphor for the party itself, come to think about it.

So what is there to bring you back for another helping. Billie looks great, sure, but not that great, and if you want to watch sex there are far more entertaining offerings available than anything ITV2 would dare to air. This might work as an exercise in cultural iconography but beyond that, as a drama, it’s as flat as a pair of fried eggs.

More shock and scandal regarding The Jeremy Kyle Show

Oh dear. Things go from bad to worse for those involved with The Jeremy Kyle Show. Of course, when I say ‘oh dear’, I actually mean har har. We all know that the show was branded a “human form of bear bating” (still the greatest TV review ever) and now it seems that there are more evils lurking beneath the skin of the show.

Producers of the daytime show have denied that they plied an alcoholic guest with beer before he appeared on the programme. Peter Davies featured in a February episode of the show to discover why his father had excluded him from his will. He has since claimed that staff at the studio persisted in giving him alcohol and has insisted they were stirring him “up for a fight”. Davies told The Sun: “They basically wanted me to make a fool of myself – and that’s exactly what I did. I was half-cut by the time I went on stage. They knew I was an alcoholic and they should never have given me a drink.”

A spokesman for the ITV show insisted that they had not given Davies five cans of lager as he has claimed, and instead revealed they had given him “two small cups of weak lager over a two-and-a-half hour period to counteract alcohol withdrawal symptoms”.

To add to the woes of the programme, UFI has announced that it is cancelling its £500,000 per-year sponsorship. The organisation, which runs Learndirect, the Government’s adult education service, claimed that continuing with the deal would not “protect and enhance” its reputation. A spokesperson for the government’s communications body, the Central Office of Information (COI), explained: “The criticism of the show – sparked by Judge Alan Berg’s remarks earlier this week – means that both UFI and the COI consider it no longer appropriate for Learndirect to be associated with the programme.”

Judge brands Jeremy Kyle show as ‘human bear bating’

When you’re giving a TV programme a kicking, you are mostly looking for that one line that manages to undercut the whole premise of the show whilst hitting the nail square on the head. It’s a very difficult skill, but one seemingly owned by a Manchester judge.

The judge condemned ITV1’s The Jeremy Kyle Show as a “human form of bear baiting” after a guest on the programme became the first person convicted of assault on a British talk show. Manchester district judge Alan Berg (officially my new hero) made his comments after David Staniforth was fined £300 plus £60 costs for headbutting bus driver Larry Mahoney during a row on stage.

Mr Staniforth had been on the daytime show to describe how Mr Mahoney had an affair with his wife Jennifer after moving into their home as a lodger. As the pair squared up to one another on stage, Mr Staniforth was filmed headbutting his rival, leaving him with blood pouring out of his nose.

Mr Staniforth later claimed he only lashed out because he had become emotional at seeing his wife again and was furious at seeing Mr Mahoney as well as being criticised by Kyle during filming at the Granada TV studios in Manchester earlier this year. Sentencing Mr Staniforth, Mr Berg was scathing about the programme, which is aired from 9.25am on weekday mornings on ITV1.

“It seems to me that the whole purpose of the Jeremy Kyle show is to effect a morbid and depressing display of dysfunctional people who are in some kind of turmoil,” said Mr Berg. “It is for no more and no less than titillating members of the public who have nothing better to do with their mornings than sit and watch this show which is a human form of bear baiting which goes under the guise of entertainment. The people responsible for this, namely the producers, should in my opinion be in the dock with you, Mr Staniforth.”

Now THAT is a TV review!

Giving evidence, Mr Staniforth also claimed to have been duped by the production team into appearing on the show. “The producer said to me that he had spoken to my wife and there might be a chance of a reconciliation,” he told the court. “I felt I was manipulated into appearing on the show in an attempt to reconcile with my wife which I think was said now as just a ploy to get me on the show. My opinion is that they wanted to boost the ratings and were short of guests. Jeremy Kyle was very rude to me – he believed everything that my wife said – even though he didn’t know me. He was rude and he called me ‘Davey boy’ which given his position I think was rude. Then when Larry came out I had no intention of getting up but he started pointing me and shouting and before I knew it I was on my feet and I headbutted him.”

An ITV spokeswoman defended the show, insisting: “The programme provides an opportunity for people to resolve pre-existing disputes and personal issues on neutral territory, with the offer of counselling, mediation and support…” BLAH BLAH BLAH. It’s not your turn to talk moron. See? It’s not nice when someone cuts you short and starts acting like a rude swine with you is it? [Mof Gimmers]

Set the video – Entourage, ITV2, Thursday 27 September, 10.30pm

I feel so out-of-the-loop with Entourage. The clips make me laugh, the trailers encourage suitable interest but… I have yet to regularly watch it. I’m almost too scared to have a go now, as I’m so far behind and just feel I should buy the DVD box-sets and start from scratch. However for those of you who do love Vince and the boys, and like to reserve some special time for you all to hang out – good news, as season three of Entourage hits our screens tomorrow night.

Vince’s star continues to soar with the premiere of Aquaman getting everyone excited. Drama and Turtle can’t decide on dates for the event, while Vince is determined to escort his mother to the showbiz knees-up. Ari is more concerned about his new office and struggles with his finances. Online reviews confirm that season three builds on the show’s past successes and with Jeremy Piven having recently scooped the Emmy for best supporting actor in a comedy, Entourage shows no signs of slowing down. Now if only ITV would stop hiding it away on ITV2 – are they not allowed to show anything of quality on ITV1?

Coming Soon: Secret Diary of a Call Girl starring Billie Piper

We told you back in March that ITV had rescued the project to bring the story of Belle de Jour to the small screen and now that project is almost upon us. Based on the best-selling, real life diaries of Belle de Jour: The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl, this eight-part series – ITV2’s first ever unique drama – provides a no-holds-barred insight into the life of a high class escort. While the real Belle maintains her anonymity, her diaries have been turned into fresh, sexy stories by a team of women writers led by Lucy Prebble.

Producer Chrissy Skinns says: “The Belle of the blog and the books is bright, direct and funny: all in all, a strong portrayal of a contemporary woman. Our Belle is equally intelligent, confident and witty, but probably displays more vulnerability: she is fictional and that is an important distinction to make, particularly as we were keen to preserve the real Belle’s anonymity. So the series is not an adaptation of the book but rather it became an excellent springboard.”

In Episode 1, to be screened on September 27, Belle introduces us to herself and her world.

She’s a high class escort who enjoys what she does but has to keep it a secret from everyone in her personal life. Even her best friend Ben thinks she’s a night time legal secretary.

Belle explains that it’s crucial for escorts to find out what their client likes and give it to them quickly. She demonstrates this with a first time client who’s too shy to admit that what really turns him on is the idea of having sex near over-excited horses in their stables.

The next customer is more elusive. He’s a very attractive, young man who Belle just can’t seem to satisfy. Meeting her agent, Stephanie (Cherie Lunghi), the following day, Belle is disturbed to hear that this client asked to see someone else next time – someone more natural. Belle insists she sees him again, this time without any elaborate preparation. He loves it. They have great sex and in an unguarded moment, Belle tells him her real name: Hannah. She realises she can’t see him again because it’s Hannah he wants, not Belle. To stay true to the most important lesson she’s learnt – how to do the job AND stay sane – she has to keep Belle and Hannah separate.

The best quotes from this year’s Emmy awards

So after all the hype, last night saw the Primetime Emmys dished out for the 59th time. Some of the results were expected, some less so while all eyes were on Ryan Seacrest in his first time hosting the event. The theatre-in-the-round stage proved unpopular, but here at TV Scoop we give you the inside scoop on the events: who embarrassed themselves, who made it all look effortlessly easy and who wants to join Desperate Housewives? It’s all in our speeches round-up.

Host Ryan Seacrest used his opening speech to mock his own role as MC: “There are over 6,000 people here tonight. All of them talented, all of them looking incredible, all of them passed on hosting this year” while also making time to include TV hot property Hayden Panetierre (Claire Bennet in Heroes): “Congratulations on turning 18. My gift to you – seating you as far away as possible from Jeremy Piven.”

Winner of best supporting actress in a drama, Katherine Heigl first took to the stage to co-present an award with Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) only to have her surname mispronounced by the telecast announcer. Before getting down to her presenting duties, she jokingly corrected the error – hi-gell not hi-jell. When announced as the winner in her category she visibly exclaimed “S**t!” and when she finally shimmied her way to the stage revealed: “My own mother told me I didn’t have a shot in hell of winning tonight…but she’s a really big supporter, she does love me.”

Shortly afterwards, the Conan O’Brien team won and writer Mike Sweeney joked: “I do have a speech, because Katherine Heigl’s mother said we would win.”

On the subject of the stage, Jon Stewart mocked: “What a great show … this part of the audience has seen tonight.”

Winner of best supporting actor in a drama, Terry O’Quinn revealed his career ambition: “Sometimes when we’re rolling around in the jungle, in the mud, and we’re hitting each other and stabbing each other and shooting each other, and they’re pouring on the blood and turning on the sprinklers, I wonder what it would be like to bake up a sheet of cookies on Wisteria Lane…and get one of their checks.”

Winning the award for best supporting actor in a comedy series for the second consecutive year, famed ego Jeremy Piven sent up his own image: “I want to thank our entire crew. I don’t know any of their names.”

America Ferrara and Jaime Pressly were typically sweet and emotional, as first-time winners, while best dramatic actor James Spader knew that he was the underdog: “I feel like I just stole a pile of money from the mob, and they’re all sitting right over there.” Like Jon Stewart he was not a fan of the stage: “I’ve been to thousands and thousands of concerts in my life, and I can tell you, these are the worst seats I have ever had.”

Tina Fey picked up the best comedy series award for 30 Rock and thanked the “dozens and dozens of viewers” the little-seen show has, while David Chase claimed that the biggest perk of his time on The Sopranos was “working with this cast.”

However, the most talked about speech is sure to be that of Sally Field’s. The winner for best dramatic actress, the three-time winner used the occasion to make a political stand against the war in Iraq. Interesting that network Fox experienced a black-out during this potentially controversial moment. Take a look at the video below and the unsubtle censorship at work.

Backstage the actor responsible for Paulie Walnuts, Sopranos star Tony Sirico refused to hold back when questioned on co-star James Gandolfini losing out to James Spader in the best dramatic actor category: “I think it was a shame…He should’ve won tonight. I speak for Jimmy when I say he can handle it.”

Let’s hope so. It was his last chance as Big T after all.

E! celebrate their viewers favourite shows with the 2007 Tater Top Awards

The Emmys are coming later this month, but E! the entertainment channel has already handed out their honours to celebrate the best in today’s TV. The Tater Top Awards are voted for by the public and so are happily absent any nauseating industry back-slapping. The awards being American means that none of our top shows are present, but they do provide an interesting insight into what US audiences enjoy, and when we get most of their best stuff imported anyway – who’s complaining?

Plot spoiler warning: You might want to look away if you have not yet seen the most recent seasons of any of these shows: Lost, Heroes, Grey’s Anatomy, The Sopranos, The Office, Veronica Mars, The Gilmour Girls, Battlestar Galactica. There are explicit details revealed and we would hate to ruin any future story-lines for you.

Best drama
1: Lost (over Heroes really?)
2: Veronica Mars
3: Heroes

Best comedy
1. The Office
2. How I Met Your Mother
3. Ugly Betty

Best new show
1. Heroes
2. Friday Night Lights
3. 30 Rock

Best reality show (interesting that American Idol didn’t make the top three)
1. Project Runway
2. The Amazing Race
3. Dancing with the Stars

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Best dramatic actor
1. Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House, House
2. Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan, Dexter (finally, a small degree of the credit he deserves)
3. Enrico Colantoni as Keith Mars, Veronica Mars

Best drama ensemble (why no comedy ensemble also?)
1. Lost
2. Battlestar Galactica
3. Heroes

Best dramatic actress
1. Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars, Veronica Mars
2. Sandra Oh as Dr. Cristina Yang, Grey’s Anatomy
3. Sally Field as Nora Walker, Brothers & Sisters

Best comedy actor
1. Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute, The Office
2. Neil Patrick Harris as Barney Stinson, How I Met Your Mother
3. John Krasinski as Jim Halpert, The Office

Best comedy actress
1. America Ferrera as Betty Suarez, Ugly Betty
2. Lauren Graham as Lorelai Gilmore, Gilmore Girls
3. Mary-Louise Parker as Nancy Botwin, Weeds

Best male baddie
1. Michael Emerson as Benjamin Linus, Lost
2. Zachary Quinto as Sylar, Heroes
3. Robert Knepper as T-Bag, Prison Break

Best female baddie
1. Chloë Sevigny as Nicki Grant, Big Love
2. Kate Burton as Dr. Ellis Grey, Grey’s Anatomy
3. Angela Kinsey as Angela Martin, The Office

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Breakout star
1. Masi Oka as Hiro Nakamura, Heroes
2. Elizabeth Mitchell as Dr. Juliet Burke, Lost
3. Becki Newton as Amanda Tanen, Ugly Betty

Best guest star
1: Christopher Eccleston as Claude, Heroes (great to see the Brit get some recognition)
2: George Takei as Kaito Nakamura, Heroes
3: Judith Light as Claire Meade, Ugly Betty

Best kiss
1. Sawyer & Kate, “The Glass Ballerina,” Lost
2. Oscar & Michael, “Gay Witch Hunt,” The Office
3. Luke & Lorelai, “Bon Voyage,” Gilmore Girls

Best fight
1. Jericho fans versus CBS (power to the people and an inspiration to us all)
2. Jin versus Mikhail, Lost
3. Roy versus Dwight’s pepper spray, The Office

Biggest tearjerker
1: Charlie’s “Greatest Hits” and death, Lost (even though you knew it was inevitable it still got you right there)
2. Mr. Bennet sacrifices himself, “Company Man,” Heroes (yes, I did blub a little)
3. Cristina’s meltdown after Burke leaves, Grey’s Anatomy

Best line
1: “If you say ‘live together, die alone’ to me, Jack, I’m going to punch you in your face” – Rose, Lost
2: “After all these years, you don’t instinctively fear me? Maybe you should write yourself a note.” – Veronica Mars
3: “McDreamy is doing the McNasty with McHottie? That McBastard!” – George O’Malley, Grey’s Anatomy

Biggest shocker
1. Jack and Kate are off the Island in the future, Lost
2. Tyrol, Tigh, Tory and Anders are Cylons, Battlestar Galactica
3. Tony kills Christopher, The Sopranos

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Best chemistry
1. Josh Holloway & Evangeline Lilly, Lost
2. David Boreanaz & Emily Deschanel, Bones
3. Hugh Laurie & Lisa Edelstein, House

Best show of skin
1. Sawyer (Josh Holloway) and Kate (Evangeline Lilly) in the cages, Lost
2. Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) shirtless, Veronica Mars
3. Nathan Petrelli (Adrian Pasdar) shirtless, Heroes

Biggest disappointment
1. Veronica Mars cancelled
2. Season finale of Grey’s Anatomy season 3 (great – that’s a promising endorsement)
3. 24 (Amen to that)

Moment that made you want to throw out your TV
1. Lorelai and Christopher get married, Gilmore Girls
2. George and Izzie get it on, Grey’s Anatomy (yuck!)
3. Meredith and Derek fizzle out in the finale, Grey’s Anatomy

Love saga you’re bored by
1. Sawyer-Kate-Jack-Juliet, Lost
2. All of Grey’s Anatomy
3. Chloe-Clark-Lana-Lex, Smallville

New show you’re anticipating the most
1: Pushing Daisies
2: Dirty Sexy Money
3: Bionic Woman

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Show you’ll miss the most
1: Veronica Mars
2: Gilmore Girls
3: The Sopranos

Star you’ll miss the most
1: Kristen Bell, Veronica Mars
2: Dominic Monaghan, Lost
3: Lauren Graham, Gilmore Girls

Does the dominance of The Office in each of the comedy categories indicate the show’s popularity and superiority or a lack of decent competition? And Heroes behind Lost in so many categories – really? Comments on the E! website have focused on this, accusing E!’s TV reporter Kristin, a huge fan of Lost and chum to many of its stars, of influencing her readers to vote for the island drama over the super hero saga. And sadly, it looks likes it’s all down-hill for the current season of Grey’s Anatomy.

Veronica Mars will obviously be hugely missed in the States while Josh Holloway’s popularity with the ladies continues. But what do you make of these results? Agree, disagree, don’t care either way? It’ll be interesting to note the changes between what the viewing US public like compared to the industry when the Emmys are revealed, but if one show is secure of some awards it must be The Office.

[via E! online]

Ryan Seacrest to host Emmys, Janeane Garofalo for 24 & why Piers Morgan is hurting

American Idol referee Ryan Seacrest has been announced as the host of this year’s Emmy Awards. [via Reuters]

Funny lady Janeane Garofalo is going to keep a straight face in the new season of 24. Yes, the bespectacled actress/comedienne will play a government agent on the Sky One action drama. I don’t care if they sign Santa Claus to be in it – just make it better! [via Hollywood Reporter]

Piers Morgan garnered no sympthy from David Hasselhoff, his fellow judge on the US show America’s Got Talent when he revealed he had broken three of his ribs. Why? Because Piers did it falling off his Segway unicycle. The Hoff scoffed: “When I found out how he had his wreck, I said, ‘Come on man, at least I wrecked the Harley [Davidson] on the 405 [freeway], going 60 miles an hour!’ [via Digital Spy]