Sunday, October 5, 2008 by Jack Kibble-White
Any series that can boast “now with no Sharon Osbourne” must be on to a winner.
Yes X-Factor series (what is it now- four? Five?) is definitely feeling the benefit of the lack of “Mrs O”. I for one won’t miss her cutting some shapes and pouting on the live shows, not to mention playing to the gallery like some Anglo-Transatlantic Margi Clarke. With those live editions round the corner, now seems like a good time to comment on yet another one of those series that, through sheer repetition, has fallen off the broadsheet agenda, while remaining resolutely ever present in the tabloids.
So is anybody who loves telly still watching ITV1’s talent show beast? I am, but I am beginning to suspect I might be alone. For those of you who’ve jumped ship, I can tell you that you’re not missing anything. I mean literally, you’re not missing anything – it’s like an identikit version of itself.
So rigid now is the formula, that in this last whittling edition, you can actually tell who is going to be in and who is going out based on the incidental music (if a contestant walks in to face judgment to any track 30 seconds away from an ascendant key change then they’re through, otherwise they’re out). Similarly, the knowledge they always leave the last two candidates vying for one place, allows you to pretty much work out the configuration of yes and no’s before they happen.
So if the format is turning against the programme through sheer repetition, how is the rest of it working? Dannii Minogue is becoming increasingly superfluous, not helped by the obviously unfavourable editing, which excises her from many of the judges’ reaction shots. Talking of editing, that much lampooned X-Factor style of sticking in any old reaction shot, regardless of continuity still prevails. Indeed, this series has been so blatant, in one instance Dannii appeared to briefly change outfit mid-audition. Such audacity is almost commendable.
New judge Cheryl Cole has actually worked very well, despite many people’s misgivings that she would be too street tough (in fact she is quite the opposite). However, The X-Factor’s main draw remains Simon Cowell. Somehow there is just something wonderfully “in synch” about the man, even after all this time he has a great knack for verbalising what most viewers are thinking.
Less successful, and mysteriously so, is Dermot O’Leary. As a slightly free-wheeling presenter he really is in his element, and brilliant at exuding empathy. But on this show, none of that is present and I’m not sure why. Perhaps the production team just don’t have enough faith in him. Whatever the reason, Dermot is in danger of losing the last vestiges of what Simon likes to call the “likeability factor”. Hopefully he will jump ship soon and find something that better suits his talents.
So all in all, The X-Factor finds itself still outperforming (most) of the competition, but it is not the thing of pomp it used to be. Perhaps it’s found its comfortable Saturday night groove now, and rather like – say – Stars in their Eyes – will continue to pump out watchable, but inessential telly for a few years to come. Not a bad fate.