In another time, a few years ago, I watched X-Factor. It was the official switch off moment in my week. I’d leave the newsroom on Saturday evenings, make my way home and put the feet up. I’ll not pretend I was different from the masses. I lapped it up. I liked the rawness of the live auditions where you had everything from the sexually repressed only gay in the Welsh village he’d travelled from, to the chainsmoking tracksuit wearing potential (or actual) thug who was convinced he was the next Eminem.
They were all, in their own ways, entertaining.
They’d willingly put themselves on national tv to be judged, and with Cowell and the crew, at home on the sofa I, with millions of other viewers enjoyed being jury and executioner.
This year, for the first year since it began, I’m one of the few million who has turned off from X-Factor. It has gone beyond bad. It’s worse than any car crash TV I’ve seen before. Worse than poor content it constantly condescends the audience who have hung on to watch its over Americanised drivel.
I’ve tuned in, albeit briefly, on two occasions this series. One was when I was being visited by friends and the wine had gone to my head. The other was last week when - to see if we could stomach it - the hubby and I dared to tune in for ten minutes. “Turn it over, quick!” I said, taking me back to the moment, circa 1990 when my mother and me were caught unawares by the sex scene in Dirty Dancing.
When it comes to TV we’re fairly openminded. We’ll watch Coronation Street just as quickly as Newsnight but with X-Factor, we can view no more.
In the sixty seconds or so that I’d watched on Saturday. I saw some guy blethering on about the fact that he couldn’t believe he’d been cleaning chimneys a few months earlier. The same guy will probably be glad of that trade in six months time when X-Factor is over and any hopes of a career in the music industry gone with it. I’d say having a decent trade is ten times more beneficial than spending a few months on X-Factor at this stage,
My brief insight into the world of the former chimney cleaner is the very reason I don’t watch the show anymore. It’s nothing to do with chimney cleaning but why, oh why, do I need to hear the ins and outs of this guy’s life. That, in a nutshell, is what has gone wrong with X-Factor.
That particular part of the show had sent a crew out to a cafe to film the former chimneysweep having a heart to heart with his dad. I could not have been any less interested. You get the feeling that the tv executives has grossly over complicated the whole process when it’s really very simple.
Bring them in, get them to sing, pick who you want, do a few makeovers here and there, get them to sing some more, throw in the odd celebrity duet, make Louis Walsh cry, get millions of teenagers to vote, pick a winner and let us all get ready for Christmas.
That was the X-Factor at its best. That, in 2010, made its viewing figures peak and saw ITV net a bumper £100m from the show,
Last week, ratings fell by around 2 million on the previous year.
Not good news for Simon Cowell or ITV.
The tug on the heartstrings formula isn’t working, in fact, it’s utterly nauseating.
It’s not enough now to have a decent voice. Unless you have a story to go with it, you won’t make the grade. After all, with two shows a week already dragged out beyond comprehension,there has to be more material for them to edit than the odd Westlife cover.
There’s no more turning up to an arena in Manchester and seeing who walks in off the street. The contestants look like they’ve been briefed for months before their appearance.
There could well be a ‘down and out’ team in the studio who spend their time determining just how sad a story they can get from potential stars. Perhaps the team have a scoring chart. You get one star if your leg is falling off. If your leg is falling off because you saved a child’s life, that’s two stars. If your leg is falling off because your poverty stricken family had to start eating it because they have no money - you’re definitely guaranteed a place in the final.
Those of us who are writers know that a good human interest story sells like no other. We get paid to write them. I’m all for stories of triumph in the face of adversity but the contrived pile of ‘drama’ being doled out by X-Factor every week is just that. It’s completely and utterly manufactured and it isn’t good Saturday night tv.
It’s funny how, when losing viewers, they decide to press on with the fake formula instead of going back to the formula which made the X-Factor a TV hit. Less is more Cowell, less is more.