The X Factor – Seriously, it’s Not Actually That Bad

Now, I’m not going to go over the top in praise of The X Factor, however, I believe that it gets a

Now, I’m not going to go over the top in praise of The X Factor, however, I believe that it gets a lot of undue stick. For me, this arises from the programme being taken out of context; if you view it as a serious platform for budding, credible musicians, then you are going to be sorely disappointed.

I see The X Factor as a comfortable pair of slippers; granted it has become repetitive and formulaic, but sometimes it’s nice to know what to expect. Perhaps I’m just old before my time. Tonight, I sat down with a hot drink, after a relatively stressful week, and escaped into a world where weirdos and ‘celebrities’ mingled, a world where delusion reigns, and a world where people – both judges and contestants –  are entirely oblivious to their own shortcomings.

This escapism makes me happy; I know my limitations. Sometimes it’s nice to sit and think ‘I’m not perfect, but I’d never do anything I’m that bad at, in front of millions of people’, or simply, ‘at least I’m not them’. I believe that a lot of criticism for The X Factor derives from their attempt to monopolise the much-coveted Christmas Number One position. This suggestion that Simon Cowell’s choice of manufactured pop cheapens the position of the best-selling-song-in-the-week-before-Christmas becomes flawed, when you consider the fact that previous incumbents of this prestigious position include Bob the Builder and Mr Blobby.  In fact, when browsing relatively-recent Christmas Number Ones, it becomes difficult to understand how the position ever became so well-respected by those who fought to bring it back to the people through the campaign to get Rage Against the Machine into it. It has been dominated by pop for the majority of its recent years. Are Westlife, the Spice Girls and East 17 really more respectable ‘artists’ than whoever wins The X Factor? Unlikely.

It seems that the public have indeed become bored of The X Factor, with the viewing figures so far this series well down on those of previous years; the average audience for this series’ first episode was 8.7million, below last year’s launch which was viewed by more than 10million, and Saturday 1st September’s programme saw a new low for this series of only 8.6million viewers. A TV talent show is typically only as good as its judges, and this is, perhaps, the main reason behind The X Factor’s slump in popularity. Simon Cowell’s decision to abandon the UK version has undoubtedly weakened the line-up; his cutting remarks and authoritative air is sadly lost. However, Gary Barlow’s deadpan delivery of put-downs is relatively amusing and Louis Walsh continues his hilarious transition from kindly uncle to a ridiculous self-parody, via a world-weary seal (just look at the way he applauds and grins inanely when he’s seen someone he likes). Granted, Tulisa whats-her-name is properly annoying – and horrendously under-qualified – and the choice of guest-judges so far has been terrible; the human equivalent of the colour beige, Leona Lewis, being a particular lowlight, but the hilarity of just how seriously Barlow takes the whole process, and Louis Walsh’s propensity to make ridiculous comparisons, just about make up for their colleagues’ failings. Louis’s entirely irrelevant ‘you remind me of a young Bruce Lee’, to a Chinese contestant, and Gary Barlow’s ‘you look like the band’s accountant who’s joined them on stage’, to a bespectacled man who ruined his band’s performance, have been the undoubted highlights of this series so far.

Another aspect of the programme that I feel the need to defend is the oft-parodied sob-stories, which have certainly featured less this series, with tears being at an all-time low. I believe that this is an example of The X Factor’s new-found sense self-realisation; they’ve accepted the fact that, at this stage, people watch to laugh at freaks, and not hear about how someone has become inspired to follow their dreams because their next-door neighbour’s, cousin’s, best friend’s dog has got a cold.

The X Factor has become a programme that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s an easy watch on a Saturday night, and nothing more. Of course, this article is ultimately a thinly-veiled, and relatively half-hearted, defence of a programme that many seem to have long given up on. However, someone’s got to speak on behalf of the 8.6million remaining viewers!