I continue to watch X Factor, my soul continues to wilt

In preparation for this week’s X Factor review, let me cast your mind back to Sidney Lumet’s 1976 film Network.

In preparation for this week’s X Factor review, let me cast your mind back to Sidney Lumet’s 1976 film Network. It’s a satire that revolves around Howard Beale, a newscaster who goes crazy and launches into deranged on-air rants about the state of the media, who is then exploited for ratings by slick TV executives. I’m not going to ruin it, you should go and watch it now, or you could alternatively watch it instead of X Factor next week. I bring it up because as the days go on, it looks more and more like a documentary. It exposes the shallow nature of television and the mindless generation that results from excess of it, and if you need proof for its relevance in today’s media, look no further than X Factor.


This week we open with a 35 year old woman singing a dubstep version of Tell it to my Heart. I don’t know why. One of them on their own would be horrific; mixing them is akin to mixing poo and dynamite. She sings, and because she is singing dubstep, is understandably brutal. Gary Barlow swiftly points this out. But to the refined ears of Louis Walsh, Mel B and Tulisa this was ‘entertainment,’ and since she only needs three votes, she goes through. In trying to convince Tulisa to vote otherwise, Barlow hits her with this, ‘remember why we’re here, and what we’re doing.’ Something I myself was wondering, in reference to the fact I’ve made a habit out of watching this every week. Tulisa, needless to say, ignores all common sense and votes her through.

As the show moves on, we get a montage of reasonable singers getting through and jumping for joy with their family, and while this normally provokes some positive emotions, it’s actually at this point that I realise that X Factor has become a tv version of a recurring nightmare. It has steadily devolved into the most formulaic and repetitively banal show on tv. In a small attempt to remedy this, ITV are all about acoustic guitars. They are a big thing now, with an average of 3 per show. The hardest thing to deal with here is the fate of those who wield them. The contestants who utilise these guitars, are mostly harbingers of good taste, bringing a soulful, reflective vibe to whatever song they sing. Just last week, someone managed to bring some sort of resonance to Tulisa’s ‘Young,’ which is possibly the biggest achievement in the world ever. But the sad thing is that when these guitar warriors win, they will have that individuality and creativity ripped from their empty, cold fingers and callously instructed to sing about overconsumption of alcohol or blowing somebody’s whistle or how they only live once or something else with the intelligence of a ham bap. At the moment it’s a straight race between Nicki Minaj and Pitbull to see who can bring the world’s collective IQ to zero, but I have a feeling those who fearlessly brandish good taste and an acoustic guitar will be quickly transformed into a useless pop-bot, and forced head first into said race.

Embarrassed kids

Moving on, and following the segment of good singers, we need a laughable act so to balance the scales. So we are given 51 year old Alison. She dances and sings Edge of Glory, horrific enough when Lady Gaga sings it, made worse when her two teenage kids are backstage, looking like they would rather melt into the floor than be there. It’s all chuckles and guffaws from the audience and Alison is given the cold shoulder. A fairly miserable 5 minutes.

But we do get a small ray of hope in the shape of Joseph, and his 4 year old son. He has a slightly old school rocky voice, which is a welcome relief from the usual renditions of Top 40 nonsense. He gets through, which is nice, hugs his son, and becomes the second contestant of 30 in boot camp who actually deserve their place. Do you remember Anastacia? Me neither. Undeterred by the fact no one knows or cares who she is, she ploughs on and judges the talent in Glasgow. She says some things. I’ve ran out of interesting things to say about her.

A fairly unremarkable week, even for X Factor’s standards, and as a result I cast my eye over some things I might watch next week instead. The Biggest Loser Australia? Judge Judy? NCIS? The Lottery? Top Gear? Basilisk: The Serpent King? Two and a Half Men? Location, Location, Location? Punk’d? As it turns out, Saturday night television has all the appeal of weekend camping in Jeremy Clarkson’s’ armpit. I guess X Factor can’t get any worse. Right?