Sunday, 8 November 2009

Calling time on the X-Factor

The problem with any show that relies on audience votes to determine its outcomes, is that sometimes the public will get it wrong. Which is why the X-Factor's stroke of genius was to introduce the judges' casting vote. That way, when the thirteen year-olds with unlimited texting contracts decide to vote with their hormones, a modicum of sense could easily be restored. Or so we thought. Tonight, everything that we feared about the X-Factor was proven correct in one ill-judged move by executive producer and professional flat-head Simon Cowell.

Throughout this series, the only constant has been the disdain he's shown for Louis' decision to put Children of the Damned John and Edward through to the live finals. While all the other contestants gave it their all, or tried a lame backflip when their voice let them down, Jedward (thanks for that mainstream press) showed a knack for tuning that would make a mating walrus ask them to "keep it down".

Week after week, the twins have surrounded themselves with a whole circus full of dancers to distract from their staggeringly awful vocals. They also cannily chose tracks that require chanting rather than singing - the kind of songs that even Marlee Matlin could pull off.

As the show has progressed, Simon's initial hostility has melted as he's realised that the twins have been garnering more press coverage than all the other contestants put together. Ultimately, shows like the X-Factor win the ratings battle based on the column inches, rather than the musical output.

This week, Simon's supernaturally ageless sidekick Sinitta took time out from her busy topiary schedule to talk about his plans to turn the Irish imbeciles into the new Ant and Dec. It's clear that Simon has reviewed the talent on show and decided that this is a Brookstein, rather than a Lewis year. As a consequence, he's likely to make more money from managing Jedward than he is from a bunch of Eoghan Quiggs.

Nonetheless, it's safe to say that Simon finally drove a stake through the heart of his beloved creation with his choice tonight. The bottom two were announced, and viewers everywhere rejoiced that Jedward had finally irritated enough people to face the sing-off. Lucie came out and gave good Whitney with her version of One Moment in Time - a song whose DNA can be found in every winners' song since the first Pop Idol gave Will Young a silver shower.

And then Jedward came out in their poorly made Ghostbusters jump-suits and ran around the stage shouting Rock DJ, like toddlers in need of Ritalin. It should have been the quickest Judge's vote ever, but with two votes against them, John and Edward found themselves waiting for Simon's verdict.

In Simon's own words, Lucie had finally overcome her disconnect with the audience, and had started to mark herself out as a contender. She was singing with more confidence and finally acting her age. But alarmingly, Simon said he'd rather see the boys perform again. He even admitted how much criticism he'd received for chickening out of the casting vote in the previous week. And then did exactly the same thing again.

As the creator, executive producer and record label owner behind the show, Simon's entitled to do whatever he likes. It's his venture and ultimately, he'll make whatever decision is likely to net him the most money. It's also extremely unlikely that Simon didn't know which way the 'deadlock' vote would go. Simon got his wish and, despite his assertion that he would be making his decision based solely on the merits of the vocal performances, the wrong act went home.

The X-Factor has always been a pantomime. Heroes and villains, tragedy and comedy, plus a handful of colourful performances. But before today, it also had a sense of innocence. Not anymore.

It could be that Simon's decision to save Jedward (albeit indirectly) was a 'fuck you' to the people who pledged to vote for the twins to teach Simon a lesson. But by playing along Simon has shown just as much contempt for his show, and the very principle of a talent contest, as its most vocal critics. And when its own creator loses interest in the format, you know its days are numbered.

No comments:

Post a Comment