The summer is coming to a close meaning the inevitable return of Britain’s most tired reality show, a stunning achievement with ITV who are still serving helpings of Britains Got Talent and I’m A Celebrity. I’d accuse them of beating a dead horse but at this point we’ve battered the carcass to pieces and are burrowing through the earth halfway to Australia.
The show has shook things up by adding new judges (again). They’ve added part time radio one host and full time twitterbot Nick Grimshaw to the panel. If the first two episodes are anything to go by Nick might be the least interesting and most paper-like person to ever take part in the show’s production. Rita Ora who succeeded in making me miss Jessie J has now taken up the role of making me miss Mel B. The lineup looks more homogenised than ever with only Simon Cowell standing out. Cowell, the musical equivalent of Tony Blair still drops quips and derides the occasional fool but his creativity has waned over the years. He is no longer the judge contestants fear.
For the first few weeks of the show’s run we will see a list of heavily vetted hopefuls and heavily vetted failures brought in front of the judges. The loss of the middle ground contestants has done the show major disservice as we are no longer left guessing whether or not the singer will get through. Within a single note the viewers already know and the crowds immediate hollering reinforces this. All the tension in the performance dissipates. To make matters worse viewers can often guess before the performance, thanks to the imbalanced levels of coverage granted and unsubtle musical foreshadowing.
It was at almost the quarter of an hour mark when the show finally gave the viewers a singer worth listening too. With each successive series the amount of time given to actual music is reduced. The episodes now mostly consist of establishing shots, awkward backstage interviews, slow motion walking and shenanigans from the judges. There are also noiceable slip ups in the editing, the worst being a laugh track pasted over a clearly bored audience. The X Factor has never felt so overly produced and plastic.
The First Kings exemplify all that is wrong with the show:
This is supposed to be the bands first audition (even though everyone knows it’s their fourth or fifth) where we get a glimpse at their raw unprocessed talent yet there is so much frivolous nonsense going on that it’s difficult for the viewers to even catch the mediocre vocals on offer.
The shows crying virus has gone from a minor inconvenience to pandemic levels. We have close-ups of families crying, close-ups of the audience crying, close-ups of the judges crying. Crying is a mandatory part of each episode and if you, the viewer don’t join in, you have a heart consisting mostly of stone, you scum.
The judges also have a bad habit of handing out “big fat yeses” leading the viewer to question whether the BMI of an affirmation has any significant effect on the competition.
It’d be easy for people to write the show off as silly Saturday night entertainment designed to distract and amuse but the X Factor is very insistant that this is aspirational TV. This is the show that turns around fortunes and saves people from their mundane lives of realistic emotional connections, steady income work and adequate living conditions. Unfortunately the show leaves more shattered dreams in its wake than fulfilled ones. Every years thousands of hopefuls line up only to be sent home with no camera time. Even the twelve finalists usually crash and burn once they leave the stage.
Despite their brazen boasts of salvation and hope, the X Factor seems designed to turn the viewer into a misanthropic mess. With each screeching shout from the self entitled panto crowd your love and care for humanity is whitled away. Whether they are cheering for the age of the contestant, laughing at foreign accents or sniggering at the idiosyncrasies that come with minor disabilities. Whenever a contestant who doesn’t match prevaling beauty standards comes out the crowd can be heard to make light of them. It’s clear that the lessons taught by past contestants are never ever going to be learned and perhaps the future as presented in zombie apocalypse shows like the Walking Dead may be preferable to our reality.
They actually actually added a comedy “plodding” sound effect when a larger contestant took to the stage. Then the show expects you to feel bad for prematurely judging him. Every year the show insists on having a ‘hateable’ contestant. When this person says something mildly irritating during an audition the producers will insist on playing this clip multiple times as well as displaying a reel of their most douchey moments. Innevitably someone online will send them hatemail or a death threat and then we will have the judges complaining about the very haters that their show purposefully created for media attention.
The X Factor contains that special kind of greasy manipulation that poisons the very souls of everyone watching. It makes you hate the audience, the judges and yourself all whilst maintaining a facade of it’s own vapid brilliance. It’s cynical manipulation and vanilla panel is driving the viewing figures further towards oblivion. Strictly Come Dancing will soon arrive to delightfully decapitate whatever remains.
I thoroughly believe that talent shows can offer a new way to enter the music industry. They can be a triumph for fair play. The best singer wins and bypasses the inbuilt prejudices of the draconian music industry. The X Factor could have ushered in a new period in music with non-models getting a chance. Instead it chose to embody all the industries sins. May it burn in hell.
Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this article are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Please don’t sue me.