As part of my ongoing commentary on all things lowculture, I feel it’s time I address the current state of The X Factor. The ratings have been dropping year upon year, and it seems not even the return of Simon Cowell and the “nation’s sweetheart” can reverse its fortunes.
Nobody has ever been under the illusion that The X Factor is a classy show. It’s tacky and predictable, but it used to offer passive viewing at its best. No matter how much you claimed to hate it, you’d dip in and out at some point and your mum would swear by it to help her through the ironing. But something seems to have changed, and the show has become almost unbearable to watch. Why? Well allow me to give my thruppence worth…
1. The editing is TERRIBLE.
I’m not sure when The X Factor decided to morph into TOWIE, but it doesn’t work. The abundance of awkwardly-staged scene-setting is unnecessary, and by the time you get to the first audition, it feels like you’ve already sat through several ad breaks and forgotten what you’re watching altogether. Couple this with the mic’d up audience members giving a Gogglebox-style commentary, and it’s almost like The X Factor has become that embarrassing auntie that’s desperately trying to keep up with the cool kids, but not quite managing.
Then there’s the cutting and pasting. Most people are fully aware that the vast majority of reaction shots have been artistically arranged for dramatic effect, but the editors have become so lazy it hurts. The laughter, cheers and boos from the audience are so choppy and fake that it almost feels as though you’re watching an 80s sitcom. The prolonged silences after a bad audition, followed by a Simon Cowell eye-roll that was filmed four weeks ago, pasted next to a face-palm from Cheryl that was probably filmed in 2008 – it’s pretty much become a parody of itself.
And don’t get me started on the horrific montages that always result in somebody “blowing the judges away” following a succession of terrible auditions.
2. It’s becoming The Cheryl Show.
In the hope that the Angel of the North and her golden teardrops can save the show, the producers decided to bring back Cheryl Cole (I refuse to attempt to learn her latest surname). Through no fault of her own, she’s being rammed down our throats more forcefully than Ray-J in a Kim K home movie, and if the producers aren’t careful her return could prove counterproductive.
The first episode of the series featured a weirdly self-referential montage of Cheryl Cole adoration, set to a soundtrack of her various pop hits. Every episode since has been dominated by her tears of joy and sorrow, her “playful flirting” with Simon and her L’Oreal endorsements – yes, even the show’s ad-breaks are being dominated by Chezza.
3. The other judges aren’t up to much either.
I was very excited about Mel B joining the panel because I thought she’d spice things up a bit (I’d have been a fool not to use that pun), but so far she’s only been used as occasional comic relief, and at times I genuinely feel like I’m watching Bo’ Selecta. Louis Walsh has been whipping out his usual set of interchangeable stock phrases, and I’m already dreading the live shows where he’ll awkwardly compare somebody of an ethnic minority to somebody else of the same ethnic minority despite the fact that they bear absolutely no resemblance to one another.
Then of course there’s Simon. His shirts have become so unbuttoned this year that he may as well turn up in a manikini, and his almighty “stopping hand” is beginning to do my head in. By the look on his face, anybody would think he was Moses parting the Red Sea, but in fact, he’s just Simon Cowell crushing a young person’s dreams.
4. Even the contestants are becoming predictable
Despite the fact they only seem to get around 20% of the airtime, even the contestants have started to grate on me, fitting perfectly into the predetermined X Factor archetypes. There’s the teenage boy with the guitar and the annoying indie voice, the “urban” girl group who look like H&M threw up on them, the twinky boyband who aspire to be the next One Direction, the fat girl with a sob story, the middle-aged mum who put her dreams on hold to have children and has now returned for her “last chance”, and the irritating tit that will make it through to the live shows based on “personality” alone. I’m not sure if there are any other other types of singing hopeful out there, but if there are, I wish to God The X Factor would find them.
5. I guess I’m just generally sick of being spoon-fed
The X Factor has become The X Factor by numbers, and it’s getting tedious. Call me old-fashioned, but I miss the days when I could watch more than four auditions per show. I don’t care about the back-stories or the judges; I just want to see people sing – and I don’t need editing to tell me how I should feel. The X Factor is like an old school friend I don’t particularly like anymore, but will still give the time of day because of our long history. But there’s only so long you’ll humour an old friend before making excuses to skip the next “reunion” and The X Factor is well on its way to being crossed off my Christmas card list.
Sort it out Simon! My Saturday nights in depend on you.
Follow the amazing Martyn Hett on Twitter @MartynHett.