Thursday, November 24, 2005

I'm still not watching

And I'm certainly not watching, watching again, then spending three hours writing about it.
You guys totally have to watch, because I've seen the song list for this weekend and it promises to be an absolute fucking trainwreck. None of them will be able to cope with their songs.
It. Will. Be. Awesome.

(Also, all the comments that were left when he decided to quit were absolutely amazing, and meant SO much to us. Thank you!)

Sunday, November 13, 2005

A premature end

Transmission date: 12 November 2005

It is with a heavy heart that I sit down to write this, for this will be our last update on the show. Joel and I have talked it over, and despite our commitment to see the whole sorry charade through to the bitter end, we just cannot face watching this show again after what happened tonight. We're sorry, and we hope you all understand and won't hold this against us, but we've both absolutely had it. [Yup. I suddenly understand why Television Without Pity has to pay its recappers, because there is no way I could continue watching this piece of trash for fun. - Joel]


We get the usual "tonight on The X Factor" intro, and it's very swift this week. I wonder if that's because the show's running time has been cut, AT LAST. Kate comes onto the stage, and for once I don't think she looks like ass on a plate. I am, sadly, to be proved wrong once we get a wider shot of her. She's wearing this strange top with what looks like a large sheet of silk wrapped around her middle. If you're familiar with the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode entitled 'This Year's Girl', it looks not unlike that horrible massive-horizontal-banded blouse that they forced poor Amber Benson into that made her look three times her usual size. Similarly, it does Kate no favours.

Kate introduces the judges, and Sharon has apparently come as Austin Powers for the evening. Seriously, what is with all the ruffles and velvet, Sharon? It isn't a flattering look. We're introduced to the contestants, and I could write a bit about this, but really you know who's left, you've seen this bit before, so let's skip ahead.

First up is an act from the 16-24 category. It's odd; I assumed they would make Sharon go first as she's the only one with four acts left. But no, it's Shayne, who Louis informs us, in something of an exclusive revelation, is from Manchester. No! Really? I am very surprised. In his VT intro, there is some talk about Simon's criticism from last week, and Shayne and Louis seem quite angered about it. This just serves to make them both look stupid, because Simon was right. Also making Shayne look stupid? That beanie. Take it off, Shayne. Shayne is nervous because he is going to have to dance this week. There are some new glamour shots at the end, and where they were against a glimmering back blackground before, now the background is white. Shayne is also wearing white, and white on white really suits him. He should take up fencing. He comes onto the stage and stands upstage rather than downstage, which seems unusual. The backing track for 'Cry Me A River' (Justin Timberlake, not Julie London) kicks in, and I sigh with the sheer inevitability of this song choice. I think it's a bad choice because it doesn't do much from a vocal showcase point of view, it's all about the production. Shayne gives it a good shot, but to be honest this song was a mistake. He doesn't do a good job of transposing from the low notes to the high notes, and his high notes are squeaky and off-pitch. Also, he's not much of a dancer, and when he dances with his hands on the hips, he looks quite, quite gay. I also feel compelled to express my disgust at the omission of the second verse, because the "don't act like you don't know it" line is the best part of the entire song, as established by me and my sister back in 2003. The key change is extremely awkward, both in the backing track and in Shayne's singing. [Plus there’s no way to sing this song without it being ‘Tonight Matthew, I’m going to be Justin Timberlake.’ He even had the ‘oh!’ and stuff in the same place. - Joel] Judges' comments: Simon welcomes Shayne back to the 21st century. He says that Shayne has the potential, with the right songs, to be within two to three years one of the most successful male solo artists in this country. While I usually love to agree with Simon, I think this is absolute horseshit. It took Will Young that long to achieve the same thing, and Shayne is Will Young as purchased from TK Maxx. Sharon is pleased to see Shayne acting like a 21-year-old and looking like a 21-year-old. I wasn't aware he'd done anything else. I know Louis picked him a few songs from the dark ages, but it wasn't like Shayne came out in a pair of comfortable slacks and sang them in an armchair whilst listening to the World Service. Now, do you remember the thing that Sharon had for Shayne that was warm? She's brought it in and wants him to see it. The ITV compliance team start biting their nails. Sharon whips it out (steady) and it is, I think, a little wolfhound, although I'm happy for experts on breeds of dog to correct me here. [I think it’s one of her dozens of Pomeranians. - Joel] Basically, all you need to know is that it isn't her minky, thank sweet merciful crap. Louis babbles something supportive that I didn't really care enough to listen to properly, and Shayne tells the judges (in his big gay voice, TM Joel) that he wanted to show people how much he wants it (DRINK!) and that he hopes people vote for him.

Next up is Maria, and I'm starting to cry a little just thinking about it. Don't ask me why, but I had a horrible feeling that this wasn't going to be a good week for Maria. I think I may be psychic, but more on that later. Sharon says that this week's song choice is "from the left field" and Maria says it's a tough rock song. She also states that she's had a lot of trouble learning it and that the lyrics don't stay in her head which, well, that isn't good. Couldn't she have just done 'Since U Been Gone' if she wanted to go rocky for this week? She already knows the words to that one. Maria's song for this week is 'Brown Sugar', [Making me very glad that’s Sharon’s intro about a big cup of brown sugar wasn’t just some horrible race-pimping. - Joel] and while she's giving it 100% as always, it's simply totally the wrong song for her. She's struggling to be heard over the backing, and I think another big mistake that Maria made tonight was wearing trousers and thus hiding her awesome legs. It's not her best performance, but it's still a good performance because it's Maria and she's incapable of delivering anything but [And she was still as sexy as hell. - Joel]. Louis says that she reminds him of Tina Turner, and that it wasn't an obvious choice of song for her but that she gave a great performance and deserves to be here (DRINK!) I'm going to buy Louis a word-a-day calendar for Christmas, in the hope that he might extend his vocabulary if there's a third series. And as well as the calendar I will also buy him a pitbull trained to sic people called Louis Walsh, for reasons that will become clear later. Actually, I wonder if Backup is available for hire? Simon disagrees totally with Louis, and says that last week Maria stole the show, where this week she was brought down to the level of a singer at a New Year's Eve party. A good New Year's Eve party, he qualifies, but a New Year's Eve party nonetheless. Ah, New Year. When the thoroughly-deserving winner of this show will be freshly crowned, and there will be much rejoicing in the streets, except from those of us, like Joel and me, who no longer give a tiny rat's ass. Simon says that you have to be dirty to sing that song, and Maria is not. Sharon: "You'd like to know if she is." Hee! Simon protests that Maria is a married woman, and her husband is a lucky man (and judging by tonight's edition of The Xtra Factor, a really cool and sweet man, so a big aww to that). Sharon says that she pushes Maria each week to rise above people's expectations, and that Maria delivers and that she's proud of her. Excuse me, I have something in my eye. Sniff. Maria thanks the judges, and talks about how she's still developing and learning and finding her niche. She thanks Sharon and Mark (Sharon's musical director or nearest equivalent thereof, I believe) for pushing her, and urges people to vote for her. Sniff.

After the break: the Conway Sisters, Andy, Journey South and Chico. My excitement here is tangible, obviously.

Back from the break, and Simon does an unusually sarcasm-free introduction for the Conway Sisters, who in their VT discuss how betrayed they felt by Simon's critique from last week, and that they don't believe they fell apart in the middle. In the nicest possible way, suck it up and get over it, because what you're doing right now is not going to make you better performers. [Exactly. They were all ‘We were wounded, wounded by Simon’s words!’ and it’s like, well, stop being shit, then he might say something nice about you. - Joel] Wondering if Simon might have a point, and doing something about it? Yeah, that might. They say how they chose their own song this week, and I'm pleasantly surprised to discover that it's En Vogue's 'Hold On' (which is not so much by En Vogue as it is by Wilson Phillips, an embarrassing mistake to have made, and my thanks to the kind-yet-anonymous commenter who pointed this out), a song that I love. Laura is playing the piano for this performance, and well done to them for playing an instrument that isn't a goddamned guitar. I am pleased to report that this is their best performance on the live show by a long shot - the harmonies are nicely judged and they keep it together much better than usual. Even Holly enjoyed it, and she hates this show (good news, Hol, you'll never have to watch it again after this week if you don't want to). Louis is a fan of the girls, he says, and this performance was much better than last week, even though it was a hard song (DRINK!), they did well. They're good Irish girls (CHUG!) and he wants them to fight. Presumably not each other [OMG that would be awesome. Wrestling in mud. Or potatoes. Did you know they’re Irish? - Joel], but rather to stay in the competition. Sharon takes issue with Louis's comment that the girls have "more talent than a lot of people here", by which Louis cheerfully admits he means Chico. He adds "not in my category", and yeah, Shayne and Nicholas are real finds, you jackass. Totally unique, and not in any way poor copies of Will Young and Craig David. Sharon tells the "King of Pop" to shut up, and seriously Sharon, don't feed that man's ego. Louis Walsh has done nothing for pop except deliver a few swift kicks to its rapidly decaying corpse with each successive Westlife album. Simon enjoys the bitchfight, as well he might. Sharon loves the song and loved the performance, which is all very nice. Simon wants to clear up that he doesn't think he picked the wrong song last week, and that he'd pick it again. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that there is no love lost between Simon and the Conway Sisters. Just a crazy theory of mine that came out of the left field. He thinks that they made the right decision in choosing this song and wishes them luck which, while all positive stuff, is still very cold when you think about it. Compare it to how he talks to Journey South and see what I mean. The girls thank the judges for giving them the chance to sing a song of their own choice.

Andy is next, or as Sharon puts it, "the SECOND of my FOUR acts". If I may quote from my notes, "One of hers is so going this week". I just wish I'd been proven wrong now. Andy in his VT: "I had a chat with Sharon and she thinks I need to raise my bar even more." Hee, because I'm 12. His song this week is one written for a four-part harmony, so we all know at this point that he'll be doing something by Boyz II Men, and sure enough, he goes for the very interesting choice of 'I'll Make Love To You'. He does an okay job on it, but he suffers from comparison to the layered harmonies of the original and his rendition sounds very thin by comparison, although he does kick ass a little bit when he starts ad libbing at the end. [Can I just say that I really didn’t enjoy this, purely because I really, really do not want Andy to make love to me, and that overshadowed vocal quality etc. - Joel] Louis says that Andy is a terrific singer, and that this was a hard song (DRINK!) because four people normally sing it. I really hope that they invent one of those pocket Louis Walshes on a keychain - you press a button and he tells you one of eight things that you already know. Fun for all the family! He does add that he prefers Andy doing Nat King Cole songs. Yes, Louis, but there is a chance that Andy might run out of famous Nat King Cole songs to sing, so do you not think it might be a good idea for him to have a Plan B? Simon admits he "thought Madame had gone nuts" when he heard this was to be Andy's song for this week, and suddenly I think how awesome Sharon would be in the lead role of Mother Clap's Molly House. He thinks Andy appealed to his target audience and gave them what they want. I hate how everything on this show is geared towards flogging your wares to the lowest common denominator, but the audience holler and stamp their feet dementedly in apparent support of this comment, so Simon doesn't finish his comment other than to say he thought it was great, and I bash my head against a supporting wall. Sharon just wants to let Andy's voice do the talking for him. Well, yes, Sharon, that is how most people operate, the deaf-mutes aside. "Give him a rock song to sing, that'll screw him!" pipes up Katy, and knowing what I know now, I cannot find enough word in the world to express my feelings here.

Kate, to the audience: "You're a rowdy mob tonight." Hee. Still to come, Journey South, Chico, Nicholas and Brenda. Brenda can't be on my screen soon enough, let me tell you.

An advert for a new variety of horse perfume. Oh, my mistake; it's Sarah Jessica Parker. She's called her new fragrance 'Lovely', so she's clearly as inventive as she is beautiful. A trailer for the Take That documentary, which is an excellent way of reminding me how much most of these losers suck.

Back from the ads, and Simon introduces Journey South, whom he refers to as "a group that you can just push push push". Yes, off a cliff cliff cliff. Just kidding. They're unsure about their song for this week. Isn't everyone? Apparently this was the first time they'd disagreed with Simon about the song choice, and he had to "have words". I wonder idly if thumbscrews were involved somewhere. Carl looks good in the new glamour shot; like Shayne, white is his colour. Um, except for the white jacket that he wears when he walks onto the stage, which looks like it spent its previous life restricting the movements of asylum inmates. [Seriously. White leather with a mandarin collar is not a look you want to be sporting unless you’re a villain in seventies sci-fi. - Joel] The flipping guitar is still there, electric again this time, and a mealy-mouthed rendition of 'Living on a Prayer' follows. Shock confession time: I actually quite enjoyed this performance. I mean, I still don't see anything in these guys that resembles the so-called X Factor, but I liked seeing them do something uptempo and singalong rather than more worthy acoustic crap. [Heh. Horses for courses – they completely lost all the goodwill they’d gained from me last week by this piece of bellowing nonsense. - Joel] The audience sings along, which is quite cool. Sharon liked the song and the performances, but points out that Carl (I think) looked uncomfortable on stage. She tells him to enjoy it because it's rock and roll, and I think she's channeling Gene Simmons here. Louis says something inconsequential. Simon spouts out yet more stuff about how much you can push Journey South and how they're willing to take risks, and how this risk paid off. Yeah, you're a hero, Simon, no doubt about that. I'll commission that commemorative plaque in your honour first thing in the morning. Andy says that he enjoyed himself, that this was their "most toughest" (sic) week yet, and that they hope to be back next week.

Back to Sharon and "oh dear, oh dear, those three little words again: it's Chico time". I really hate the expression on Chico's face when he hears that he's safe, as shown in the VT. He can't do anything subtly? Stupid question. Chico feels the slate is wiped clean now that Simon apologised, and that he's got as much chance as anyone to win. Sure, as much as anyone who's been in the bottom two twice. He says that he wants to prove to the country that he can sing, and that with this song it will be all about the vocal. By rights, this ought to have been his ticket home right here. Chico walks out in an open shirt and a vest that's tucked into his trousers and looks so much like a girl that I can't really do it justice. His song this week is Enrique Iglesias's 'Hero', and I am severely spooked because I had a premonition of this very moment earlier on today. Not knowing what anyone was singing this week, I was crossing the road in Ealing Broadway and halfway across I was suddenly struck with the knowledge that Chico would sing 'Hero' this week. It kind of sucks, because as I've made it clear on several occasions, if I'm to be given the powers of one of the Charmed ones, I want Prue's, not Phoebe's. Much as you'd expect, Chico's vocal is thin and wobbly and not at all suitable for a performance in the final eight of a talent contest. [It wasn’t quite as unbelievably hideous as I thought it would be though. It wasn’t Hollyoaks acting bad. - Joel] There's an awesome shot of the judges and Sharon's head is in her hands, like, tell it sister. Chico does a little twirl because he is a ponce and can't contain himself. There is a smoke machine which is totally overkill, and I fantasise briefly of a parallel universe where Chico chokes. Louis thinks that he thought Chico was crazy to do a ballad because the dancing is what sells him. I wouldn't even say that, I'd say it's the ego that sells him. Simon says, "Chico, we're friends now, so we can be honest with each other. You doing that ballad is like casting Ricky Gervais as Rambo." Heh. He says that Chico is an entertainer (and seriously, who in this day and age makes their living as an "entertainer" outside of a holiday camp?) and that he'd keep Chico in for another week so that he can go back to what he does best. Sheep farming? My mistake. Oh yes, do let's prolong the agony. I also have a full set of teeth that you may pull out with rusty pliers if you wish. Sharon says that Chico restrained himself; "I only saw one twirl." Hee. Chico thanks the judges for their candour, and does another twirl, standing on Kate's foot in the process. Hee, again.

Louis: "He's young, cool dude. It's Nicholas." I add Louis Walsh to my list of people who need to be reminded that the phrase "cool dude" is over, and has been since the mid-1990s. Nicholas talks in his weird robotic voice about the travesty that was his appearance in the bottom two last week [It was letting his family down. Woe! - Joel] and rubs the bridge of his nose to get the sympathy vote. It was a nightmare decision for Louis, and he went with Nicholas because he's a boy. Whoops, because "he can do a lot better on the show". Silly me, got that waxy buildup in my ears again. Nicholas VTs that he's picked a good song this week and has to step up and deliver. For a weird moment I want him to do well, and I have no idea why, since I don't care for the guy. He sings R Kelly's 'I Believe I Can Fly'. Coincidentally, whenever this record comes on, I too am convinced that life is nothing but an awful song. Funny that. He's better this week, but I still find him a boring and cold performer. I still feel like he's holding back, although on a technical level there's nothing specifically wrong with his performance. His run at the end is off, and ends abruptly and uncomfortably. I'm not sold, but I bet the judges and public will be. Sharon calls him "Nickeh" in a way that makes her sound like every single person I went to grammar school with. She approved of the song choice this week and likes his new, preppier look. He'd ditched the rhinestone belt, THANK GOD. Simon says, "it was good". He likens the performance to dinner with Louis Walsh: pleasant but forgettable. I thought he was going to go with brief and uncomfortable, but there you go. Simon says that there was no effort put into the song choice, that it was boring and had been done before. Louis tells Simon to shut up because he's "boring now". I miss the next bit, because all I can hear is the sound of a pot calling a kettle black emanating from my kitchen. Louis tells Nicholas that he sang like a star, and that Simon is just jealous. Oh good, we've officially reduced ourselves to the "you're just jealous" level of maturity. I'm so glad that happened. I must be very jealous of all these people, because I think this show sucks like and that everyone responsible for it ought to be executed without trial. Nicholas robots that he's glad he impressed Sharon and that he hopes to come back "one more time" and impress Simon, by which I really hope he means "once, in the results show, after which I will be voted off", except I know that's not how it goes.

Seriously, what is the point of that laptop on the judges' table?

Sharon introduces Brenda thus: "apart from singing great (sic), I should publish her diet because she looks fabulous". Heh. She really does, too. Brenda does the typical Brenda cackle at the end of her VT, and I'm getting a little bit bored of that now, but she looks stunning in the new glamour shots, so I'll forgive her. She sings Dionne Warwick's 'Heartbreaker' [Heh. I know it as Dolly Parton’s ‘Heartbreaker’, but it suddenly makes a lot more sense being sung by Brenda. - Joel], which is one of my favourite songs, and she does it justice. She's a little bit screechy in a few places, notably the "suddenly everything I ever wanted" line, but I can overlook that. Simon calls Brenda the most improved contestant since the contest began, and says that Louis would love her. I think we all know what he means by that, so I shall move on. Simon's only problem is that he thinks she will get work in the West End, but he's not sure if she's a recording artist. Sharon: "Why?" Simon: "Gut feeling." Sharon: "Gut feeling of what?" Simon: "Gut feeling." Sharon makes a long speech which basically boils down to: why did you create the only TV show in the world with no age limit (really? I know some people aged 15 and under who have a bone to pick with that theory) if you're going to say that Brenda is too old to succeed. Simon says that it's not a matter of age, and that he thinks Andy will sell records, because Andy has been preordained as the winner of this show and needs to be plugged on a regular basis. Brenda thanks Louis and Sharon, and invites Simon to put her in a studio once the show's finished so that she can prove herself as a recording artist. Classy comeback there, I think. [Seemed kind of petulant to me, but I guess there’s nothing you can say when Simon’s just said that. - Joel]

Kate reminds us that we're voting for our favourite. I think we got that by this point, Kate. Kate urges us all to vote, yada yada yada.

Results show

Earlier tonight! 8 acts sang live for your votes! For Louis, Shayne and Nicholas! For Sharon, Maria, Andy, Chico and Brenda! For Simon, the Conway Sisters and Journey South! But tonight one act must leave the competition for good! Well, that was a massive surprise. Thank you, Voice Over Man.

For the last hour we've been voting and apparently we're "painfully close" between the bottom three. Kate can't stress enough that this is our last chance to vote if we don't want to see our favourite in the bottom two. I've already voted, but still feel disturbingly nervous for Maria. The montage, and why are they still putting text vote up on the aston when that voting method is closed at this stage in the game?

One minute to go, and Kate announces that there have been over one million votes tonight. I don't remember her saying this last week, so I wonder if last week's vote tally was lower than usual. The lines close and Kate reveals the vote, in no particular order. The audience start shouting, because they are dimwits. Nicholas. Louis is overheard saying "bloody hell, fantastic". Hee. Brenda. Andy. Maria looks devastated at this point, and I think she knows what's coming. Shayne. Chico. "What time is it?" he yells. Fuck off and die time, you talentless buffoon. The one other act definitely coming back next week is going to find out after the break.

Most unwelcome ad break ever. I truly fear for Maria at this point.

The final act definitely coming back next week is Journey South, to no one's surprise. FUCKING HELL. I call my lawyer and officially file to divorce myself from the general public because they are morons. Seriously: Chico is safe and Maria is in the bottom two? WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH ALL OF YOU? Simon tells the Conway Sisters to enjoy themselves. Sharon tells Maria to own it. Louis tells both acts to sing it like they really really mean it. Stellar advice from all three mentors there, except for the “stellar” part. And the “advice” part. Singing for the possibly the last time on this show, Maria. She's really amped up the volume since her first performance, and while she's bringing it, she looks as gutted as I feel that she's here while Chico is enjoying a free ticket to the next show. This was a bad song choice for her. A better song and she would have been absolutely fine. It is a good performance though, and it's much better the second time, I think. [Totally. She gives it absolutely everything. - Joel] She looks thunderstruck at the end, and I don't blame her.

Some people walk behind Kate to set up the stage and it's quite funny. Kate brings our attention to the fact that neither act has been in the bottom two before. I know, and it sucks, because Maria doesn't deserve to be in the bottom two ever, and this is the Conway Sisters' best week so far. One of the Sisters (Sharon, I think) tells the audience that she wants to see them dancing, and Marie hits her lightly on the arm to get her to shut up. Hehehe. I think that they're not quite bringing it for the second time in the same way that Maria did, [Also totally. If this is the best they can do, when their place in the competition is at stake, well, that’s a bit sad, really. - Joel] but that Louis will save them because they're Irish. There is a shot of Chico clapping in the audience and I am filled with seething rage.

The audience start to shout a lot, and it sounds as though they're backing Maria. I'm still not terribly hopeful. Sharon votes to send home the Conway Sisters, unsurprisingly. Simon votes to send home Maria, which again is unsurprising (I think had they been anyone else's act he would never have saved the Conway Sisters, but with only two of his acts left in the competition I respect his decision even if I don't agree with it), but not in any way a popular choice with the audience. Louis shakes his head. Kate asks for the act he's sending home, and the audience shouts "Maria", which makes me think they want her to go home, even though I'm sure that's not what they mean. Louis says that the act he "has" to send home is Maria, and the audience is massively outraged, as am I. There is a mass of booing, and I don't think I've ever seen a reaction this strong on a show like this before. Even Kate is outraged, as she expresses her disbelief that "one of our biggest talents" is leaving the competition. Maria is emotional and so I am. I'm on the verge of tears just writing about it. We see Maria's X Factor journey. They show Maria singing 'You're Beautiful', which is just adding insult to fucking injury as far as I'm concerned. They end with her "goodnight" closing line from 'Emotion', and oh my god I'm crying again. Maria thanks Sharon for getting her that far. Sharon calls it a travesty and rages against the "Irish mafia" and says she's "had it". Kate asks Louis to explain his decision, and he says that he went with his heart. The audience boos him. Kate: "Maria: Louis says he followed his heart, Sharon says he went with his passport. What do you say?" Ha. Maria doesn't have anything bad to say to Louis, because she's awesome. Sharon says that Maria is going nowhere but into a recording studio, and I really hope that's true. What's awesome is that I have never seen so much time spent in shocked disbelief at someone's eviction from a talent show before. [I got the impression they extended the show just to get across more ‘people are disgusted’ footage. - Joel] I think the team behind this show never expected Maria to go so soon, and I’m not surprised. Clearly Kate is outraged, Sharon is outraged, the audience is outraged and everyone is baying for Louis's blood. As much as I hate to say this, he's only partly at fault here. Neither Maria nor the Conway Sisters should have gone this week, the voting was an absolute mess. Well guys, you'll get the winner you deserve with voting tactics like that. I sincerely hope you enjoy the rest of the series, because I am done with this fucking show for good. That's it. No more.

Post scriptum

So that's it for us then. We hope you enjoyed reading these updates as much as we had fun ripping the show to shreds. Maria, if you happen upon this page, Joel and I would like to say that you were awesome and that your premature elimination was nothing short of an absolute joke. We wish you every success for the future. [And hope you take some solace from the fact that you got 11,000 text messages of support, and 92% of a poll on Xtra Factor saying Louis was wrong, and the general disbelief of the audience. - Joel] We also wish the best of luck to Brenda, who is about the only act we could stomach winning the thing now. If anyone still wishes to read recaps of the show, as far as we know Talent in a Previous Life will be continuing to do them, and they're funnier than us a lot of the time, so why not take your custom there? [We might be back in future for other stuff. Hopefully shows where we hate all the contestants, so there’s none of this disappointment stuff. - Joel]

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Can you say 'Mediocre'?

Tonight, I will be introducing some more categories for an X-Factor drinking game. You know the rules – when a cliché for the show appears, a shot must be downed. I’m glad I didn’t actually perform this tonight, or I’d be clutching the toilet bowl, cursing God for giving me two kidneys but only one liver. Apparently, we’re pressed for time, as the moody montage of black clothes and turned heads flashes by without so much as a by-your-leave. We are informed that ‘your Saturday night starts here’ and I think that I’ll be the judge of that thankyouverymuch. Apparently tonight’s X-Factor is being broadcast live from the Fifties, judging by Kate’s dress, which is horrible. (Drink!) It’s lemon yellow, and ruffly, strapless, with an enormous bell skirt and a red sash at the waist. She looks like pudding. She introduces the judges and the contestants and as the audience hollers and wails and generally orgasms over the mere existence of some people on a stage, I notice that Kate’s autocue is in the middle of the audience and about fifteen feet across. I just figured they’d have put it to Louis’s right, off camera, but you live and learn. Anyhoo. Sharon’s lot are up first and she says ‘What better way to start the show than with Brenda?’, which is kind of dumb. I like Brenda lots, but I can think of things I’d rather see. Strippers, for example. Or Louis Walsh being eaten alive by fire ants. But I guess as this is a family show (though perhaps not a family recap), Brenda’s as good as any. She talks to camera about how Simon compared her to Shirley Valentine, and then we learn that she’s lost one and a half stone since entering the contest. Brenda tells us that the song she’s singing has an 11-second note at the end, and she hopes her lungs are big enough. [And cackles, as usual. Brenda and Rustie Lee – separated at birth. – Steve] The song in question is ‘Somebody Else’s Guy’ and she pretty much rocks it. She struggles a bit in the middle where it speeds up, and her phrasing there isn’t entirely clear, but in terms of hitting the notes and injecting it with energy she does really well. She breaks into a little dance at one point (for dance read ‘kick her leg out and splays her arms’) and the audience woohoos. The long note at the end she hits perfectly, but she certainly does not hold it for 11 seconds. I mean, that’s a hell of a long time and I know I couldn’t do it, but don’t draw attention to the fact and then not deliver. Judges’ comments: Simon says to Sharon: ‘your artists are supposed to screw up at this point!’ He tells Brenda it’s her best performance yet and, ‘now I’m feeling depressed.’ Louis says that it was energetic and fantastic, and that she could have a hit with it. (Drink!) Sharon says it made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. Simon makes a joke I miss, and Sharon says ‘no, I pluck those!’ In the course of her comments, Sharon mentions her Favourite Expert award. (Drink!) [Seriously. Next week I almost expect her not to turn up at all, and just to have her National TV Award sat there in her chair instead. – Steve] Brenda says that she knew the song would be a challenge and was praying ‘lungs open up and help me!’

Next! Louis says, ‘He’s young, he’s cool, it’s Nicholas.’ They’re really not putting much effort into these introductions any more, are they? [I’m fairly sure he’s used that intro for Nicholas at least twice by now, so no. – Steve] ‘They’re some girls. The Conway Sisters!’ ‘He’s a man. Andy!’ ‘They breathe oxygen – it’s Journey South!’ Apparently, when Nicholas was a kid, his parents bought him a karaoke machine and he used it so much he broke it. He says singing is what he’s ‘destined to do’ and I hate him a bit. Seriously, shut up about destiny. It’s what you want to do. Not the same. In the VT, Louis says ‘I’ve given Nicholas a really tough song this week’. This difficult song is ‘I Want You Back’ by the Jackson 5. As expected, Nicholas straps his falsetto on and is really fucking dreadful. He’s wearing the NICHOLAS rhinestone belt. (Three weeks in a row – I think that deserves a Drink!, don’t you?). You can barely hear him over the music. He sounds bored out of his mind and has no energy at all. He does a little spazzy dance. (Spellcheck wants that to be ‘snazzy.’ No, Word, it was not snazzy. It was definitely spazzy.) The high-pitched ‘All I neeeed!’ at the end doesn’t get a ‘woo!’ from the audience, and as we’ve established that these people will cheer for Brenda kicking her leg out and for Andy getting off a stool, I think that indicates just how poor this performance is. Even the audience loons don’t care. Sharon says that she’s never heard that song sung in a low register, and that it didn’t really work. She asks Nicholas if he chose it himself and he says, firmly and a little too quickly, that he did. Louis then jumps in and says that they chose it together. This despite the fact that Louis JUST SAID in the VT that he’d given Nicholas a difficult song, which to my mind totally precludes Nicholas’s participation in choosing. Louis, are you really still proceeding with that blatant lie? Your cover was already blown on this subject so give up. Besides which, even if they do choose the songs together, or if Nicholas suggested this song, then Louis should really be good enough at his job to advise against it. Either way, he just looks unprofessional. Sharon says that she likes Nicholas, but he’s not really nailed any of the songs he’s had, and that she’s ‘sure it’s Louis’s fault.’ [Hee. – Steve] Simon says that Sharon was being polite, and that it was terrible. Louis tries to jump in and gets a ‘Shut it Louis!’ from Simon, who goes on to say that Nicholas has great potential, but that ‘Louis is killing you in this competition.’ In response to the comments, Nicholas thanks them and says ‘I’ll take it on board.’ (Drink!)

Kate tells us that coming up are, well, the rest of the contestants, and someone called Joanie South, whoever she may be. Added to the prizes for the competition are X-Factor DVDs. Which: ow, my ears, the sound of barrels being scraped is deafening. [I thought it was Nicholas doing a quick reprise. They sound very much alike – screechy and painful. – Steve] Adverts. Is it really a good idea to advertise Craig David’s album in this show, thereby reminding us just how totally surplus to requirements Nicholas is? There’s a trailer for The Bill, with the tagline ‘Real Crime. Real Close.’ Well, apart from the fact that it’s, you know, fictional crime. On my TV. We come back and see that Myleene Klass is in the audience. Andy’s next and he says ‘I’ve worked so hard to live up to expectations.’ Scott: ‘You were a bin man til you were 40, you’re not living up to ANY expectations.’ Andy’s mum died (this week? another week? it’s not clear) and he’s been back in Grenada arranging things, but came back to the competition. I’m going to burn in hell for being a horrible cynic, but he didn’t seem particularly upset, and they were totally milking this. That doesn’t stop his mum’s death being incredibly sad for him, but if they’re going to use it so blatantly, then I’m going to comment on it in the same fashion. He sings ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You’ and my word it’s boring. It is, in fact, boooooooooooooring. The intro goes on and on. And on. Then when it finally goes up a notch, Andy goes ‘Woah! C’mon!’ and it’s totally forced. You don’t get to do that, Not King Cole. In what seems to be a fairly common thing in this contest, the speed’s wrong – it’s gained half a beat. Towards the end he starts to make up the tune and sing his own one, which always fucks me off. Grace notes are one thing but don’t just start making it up. Louis says that ‘everybody likes you!’ Speak for yourself, leprechaun. [I vote we start a petition. People who don’t like Andy need to have their voices heard! – Steve] Simon says that Andy’s a grown-up who takes criticism well, (really?), and that he gave it 1000%. (Drink!) Sharon says that Mrs O. is very proud of him, and mentions her judging award. (Drink!) Kate talks to Andy about how he’s had a tough week, and he says that it was. He starts talking about how his fans have been a help. Fans, already? Yeah, this guy’s totally humble. Dick. His eyes are going side to side as he says it, and given what I noted above about Kate’s massive autocue, I swear that he’s reading his response.

Next up, Louis tells us it’s a ‘young girl with a great smile, it’s Chin Eye.’ Great as in massive, yes? And for god’s sake, learn to pronounce the poor girl’s name. It’s not difficult: there’s a soft ‘ch’, like in chassis, which is what you were using, and was wrong. There’s a hard ‘ch’, like in ‘church’, and at least you’ve got that bit right now, but it doesn’t necessitate splitting the syllables of her name into two entirely separate words. Goon. She’s wearing a velour bolero jacket with studs on it and singing Elvis Presley’s ‘You Are Always On My Mind.’ Yeah, well done Louis. Make Chenai compete with Elvis. That’ll work. It doesn’t. Her phrasing is still flabby and terrible, (all ‘satithfied’, and ‘always on mamind’) and the song has been slowed down too much, which is giving her trouble. It’s a ballad, yes, but it’s not a fucking funeral march. A couple of times, Chenai breaks out the high notes, and these are much clearer and more successful. It makes me wonder if she’s singing too low for herself, but surely the vocal coaches would have picked up on that? It’s really not very good at all. Sharon says that it’s time for Chenai to act like a young girl, because she’s got a lovely voice and needs to show some personality. Simon compares Chenai to a Chinese takeaway, in that you’re left wanting more and there’s nothing memorable about it, pleasant though it may be at the time. [I didn’t really get that analogy, at least not the way he described it. I do agree that Chenai is like a Chinese takeaway in that she leaves me feeling uncomfortable and nauseated. – Steve] He says that she wasn’t fun and energetic, and that it kind of put him to sleep. Louis says that she made the song her own (Drink!) and that the public will like her (Drink!). Chenai says something about the fact that she can’t have been that boring because Simon wasn’t dropping off, and then Louis says that Simon is ‘breaking in his new teeth.’ This seems to be a complete non sequitur, but Simon laughs and laughs and laughs, so I guess I missed the joke. Chenai says she doesn’t know what to make of the takeaway comment. Scott: ‘It’s not a compliment! I know Chinese takeaway is quite posh where you come from…’ Kate says ‘Do you fancy a takeaway?’ and makes it sound really sexual, even though she’s just exhorting us to vote for Chenai.

Next up is Chico. He says that he’s been preparing physically (close up of his tits on a treadmill) and voice-wise. Sharon says that ‘if you’re going out for a night’s entertainment, who would you buy a ticket for?’ Maria, actually. But even if I were to answer ‘Chico’, the fact remains that that is not the point of this competition. You want to sell records, and particularly albums, because singles make no money. Chico will never be more than a novelty act. He might do well doing PAs in nightclubs, and could possibly have one hit single with a ‘vida loca’ cover, but he will never, ever sell albums. Chico sings Prince’s ‘Kiss’, and is trying to do a Prince? Impression? Maybe? Because he’s all high-pitched. Scott: ‘What, has he got a cold?’ He makes kissy noises on the break between ‘your extra time and your…Kiss!’ Second verse he breaks out the growls, and the dancing. Even Chico’s dancing, which is pretty much all he’s got, isn’t really working this week. I think Phillip must have coughed up a cloud of spores as he left last week, and infected them all with Twitchy Plague. It’s the only explanation. Anyway, you can imagine this performance, I’m sure. At the end, Chico sings ‘kiss’ and sounds like a goat. Louis says that Chico’s getting better every week. Which: what? Simon says that ‘I don’t know what’s happening to me, I’m liking you!’ He seems genuinely quite freaked out. The first half was horrible (a predictable ‘OI!’ from Sharon, who, like Louis, cannot take any criticism of her acts, even if it’s in the framework of praise, and a ‘Get real!’ from Simon in response), but Simon apologises for what he said early in the competition, and is glad Chico’s there. Kate says ‘you’ve been waiting for those words to spill from their lips.’ Stop making stuff sexual, Kate! Chico is extremely humble, and says ‘let the flabbergastedness continue!’. He apologises for not taking criticism well earlier in the competition, (which I think he did, generally), and seems to genuinely mean it. He says that the whole experience has been really rewarding, but then ruins all the good will that he’s garnered from me by saying ‘It’s Chico time!’ Scott likens the fact that we both seem to find ourselves liking Chico a little bit to the Jade Goody effect, and it’s true. So egregiously awful, but so good-natured you can’t hold it against them. [It’s true. Then again, I watched this on video and fast-forwarded through his entire performance, which I find to be the viewing method of choice for maximum enjoyment of Chico. – Steve]

Next up are Journey South. Simon says that they’re up with no gimmicks, no choirs, no backing track. Performing acoustically IS a gimmick, Simon. They sing ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.’ Just the two of them on stools, with a guitar. Long-blonde-hair-chip-eyes one starts off (I refuse to learn which one is which), and just as I wonder how he’ll manage the ‘sun rose in your eyes’ sustained note on ‘eyes’, he chickens out and makes a little run out of it, but it’s quite successful. It pains me to admit, but they really are pretty good. I’m sure Steve will disagree. [I have a Pavlovian reaction to people sitting on stools playing guitars that makes me fall asleep, so I don’t really remember anything about this performance. – Steve] Sharon says that they took a risk and did extremely well, and that ‘it’s the hardest song to cover’. The hardest? Out of all the thousands upon thousands of songs in the world? What a strange thing to say. Louis says ‘you’ve proved to me you’ve got real, real talent.’ Simon says that he’d rather someone left the competition taking a risk than played it safe, and besides that the risk paid off and they proved they’re really good singers. I do think it worked. They’ve got good voices, and harmonise well, when they’re not trying to prove that they’re ‘cred’ by singing U2 songs, and having to bellow to be heard over the backing track. More low-key stuff from Journey South in future, please.

Strangely, Maria is towards the end of the contest again. Not that I mind, because everything that helps her is good in my book. She’s taking Simon’s advice and singing a contemporary song. It’s a huge risk and she prays she can pull it off. She’s wearing a black minidress, and looks hot as ever. [Hell yeah. When she walked on at the beginning of the show, I found myself shouting “Fucking hell, Maria!” somewhat involuntarily. I knew she had fantastic boobs, but tonight I realised her legs are awesome to. If she weren’t married, and I weren’t gay…well, still nothing would happen, but you get the idea. – Steve] She’s singing James Blunt’s ‘You’re Beautiful’. Dear god I hate this song. Haaaaaaate. Hate. And, lord, even Maria can’t make it good. Her voice is still beautiful, and she’s still gorgeous, but I don’t like this performance that much. She’s hard to hear over the backing track, and at the end a load of backing vocals come in and she’s even harder to hear. This song kind of leaves her stranded – there’s nothing she can do with it. Apparently, the judges disagree with me though. Louis says that she was by far the best last week, and she came back just as good. She made the song her own (Drink!) and deserves a record deal (Drink!). Simon says that not only was it her best performance to date, it was the best of the night. He believes she’d have a hit record with it. (Drink!) Sharon says that it was totally effortless (which is true) and great. Simon brings in what Girls Aloud said in the papers about there being no talent in the show, and challenges them to come and sing live on the show next week if they’re so great. Louis looks shocked, and throws his hands up, and kinda looks like he’s got an ice-lolly rammed up his rear-end. That Girls Aloud thing makes me mad. You CAME from a reality audition show, girls, what gives you the right to criticise them? I think their comments were aimed at Chico more than anyone else, but hello? Maria? Brenda? Shayne (some weeks) and Andy (some weeks)? Complete lack of awareness. But that said, they won the show because they can all sing, so they could certainly cope with coming on and singing live. It’s all very weird. [My $0.02 here – it was ill-advised of Girls Aloud to make those comments, even if to some extent I do see where they’re coming from. But Simon really needs to pull that Girls Aloud-sized bug out of his ass and accept that there is a successful and critically-acclaimed act out there who launched off the back of a reality TV show that he had nothing to do with. Also, Simon, there’s absolutely no point asking Louis to give a message to them; I believe he saw them last in December 2002. – Steve] Maria is completely overwhelmed and thanks the judges lots and says she’s having such a great time.

Shayne is a young guy from Manchester. (Louis mentions contestant’s home - drink!) The VT is totally not worth recapping, other than to mention that Shayne really does have the gayest speaking voice I’ve ever heard. He comes out wearing a stripey blazer and jeans. You’re not Will Young yet, dude. I eventually realise he’s singing ‘You Make Me Feel Brand New’, and I swear that it is the most boring song in the entire history of music. Plodding dirge of hell. He sings well enough, avoiding getting nasally up in his nasal for the most part, but there are points where he warbles like a cartoon bluebird and a point where he tries and fails to howl like Prince. It’s difficult to judge, though, because the song is so unbelievably boring. Simon says that Shayne is potentially a great artist, but that you can’t put diesel in a Ferrari, and Louis is giving him terrible songs. Louis says, ‘it’s a talent contest, not a song contest!’, all pleased with himself. And it’s like, yes, but it’s a contest that involves singing. And they sing…songs? So the songs are kind of relevant. Sharon says, ‘Oh Louis, please’ and Simon calls him obnoxious. Simon tells Shayne to ‘plead with Idiot-face to give you a good song’ next week. Hee! Idiot-face. [I like that the audience cheered at that. I hope there’s a National TV Award next year of “Most Popular TV Idiot-Face”. Louis will be a shoo-in. – Steve] Shayne apologises if he seemed to have a bad attitude last week, but then proceeds to have a bad attitude by saying ‘your compliments only make me better’ and simpering. No, Shayne. Their criticisms in general are what you use to work on, not just the compliments. I’m starting to want to smack Shayne in the face. Uppity little bastard. Simon says that Shayne hit the bullseye two weeks ago, and has to do so again. Louis says that he will, and Sharon shouts ‘not with your bloody songs!’, which was kind of awesome.

Oh thank god, only one more performance. Blah blah Conways blah about they’ve got a challenging song. They’ve barely got a personality between the four of them, so I can’t be bothered to recap what they say. [Simon really seems to hate them; he’s always so dismissive when he introduces them. – Steve] They’re still helping River Island and Monsoon make a fortune. They’re singing that ‘One Voice’ song, about ‘one voice, singing in the darkness’ If I took my job seriously I’d google it, but I don’t think I can be bothered. I don’t get paid to do this. They’ve made up Marie very prettily, but it’s a shame about her snaggle teeth. The audience has been given glowsticks to wave because it’s one of those songs. Oh, it’s really not very good. There’s a big bit in the middle where they just go badadadadada lalalalalala bahdadadada and…just…no. They really don’t have the power to do this song. Their voices are lovely, when they’re being low-key, but when they try and go for these really big songs it just doesn’t work, and they end up sounding a bit screechy. Towards the end, a fucking 40-person choir comes out and joins them. SIMON! You said about half an hour ago that a choir was a gimmick, and now you’re using one! Bad man. I can’t really fault him though – he knows that the Conways are never going to win this show, so he’s pulling out the stops to get them as far as he can. It’s not terrible, tactically, but he could have saved it for later. It gets better when the choir comes in, mainly because you can’t hear the girls so much. Louis says to the girls that ‘we’re from the same country’ (Drink!), and that he likes them, but it was an ‘awful, awful song. Bad song. Bad mentor, actually’ and once again, looks all pleased with himself. It’s so glaringly obvious that it’s a direct response to Simon and Sharon slagging off his song choices a moment before that it’s just funny. Vile little cunt. Sharon said she prefers it when the girls do little folky songs, and that this one was like a Broadway song that she couldn’t sing along to. [I really, really want Sharon to show up wasted one week and start singing along to everyone’s performances. – Steve] Simon says that they gave it 1000% (Drink!), but unless he’s honest the audience won’t respect him or the Conways. So he tells them it didn’t quite work, and fell apart in the middle. Louis and Sharon pounce on this, saying ‘You’re criticising yourself. You chose the song. You’re criticising YOURSELF!!’ Yes, of course he is. He just said as much and because he’s good at his job he can recognise when things he tried didn’t quite work. The Conways are a little pissed off, this time, because they tried their best, really really hard, but it still wasn’t enough for Simon. I can understand why they’re annoyed, but stop trying and start being good.

Recaps of performances, numbers, you’ve got an hour to vote. You know this bit.


Sorry, but I can’t do this is any detail, it’s just not worth it. Safe are The Conway Sisters. Brenda. Then a close-up of Nicholas’s sweaty scalp, shining through his cornrows. Journey South. Maria. Andy. Then, in a shocking break with convention, Kate goes to the ad break when there are four people left. Which is to say, Chico and all of Louis’s acts. HAHAHAHA!! Shayne is definitely safe. This is great – it means that someone shit is definitely going home. Finally safe is…Chico! Hah! How strange. Simon says that he’s going to judge it solely on the performances that they give right now. Sharon says it’s a great chance to sing again. What? I might have missed something, there. Nicholas sings first. He’s still terrible and flat, but seems to be delivering it with a little bit more energy. Kate tells us to be on our feet for Chenai. I stayed sat down. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone. [You scab. I totally always do what Kate tells me. – Steve] I think she was a bit better the second time. Not great, but she just seemed to be enjoying it more. So, Nicholas was awful, and Chenai was merely bad. Sharon is sending Nicholas home. Simon says Chenai was better in the performances just then, but Nicholas has better prospects. Then, completely giving the lie to what he said about three minutes ago, he sends Chenai home, despite the fact that her performance was better. This also has the advantage of making Louis decide, which was totally part of Simon’s thinking. Louis goes on about how difficult it is and that he was in the position of choosing between two of his acts twice last year. Then stop putting shit acts through and then giving them shit songs to sing, you fucking moron. He knows how much they both want it. (Drink!) Eventually, Louis decided to send Chenai home. Clearly this is because she’s a girl. She goes ‘I get to go home!’ [to the crack den she keeps telling us that she wants to escape from – Steve] and tries to seem excited. We see her journey, from her great first audition to her gradual descent into sucking like a mother. Her little glum face is in the corner of the screen. Chenai thanks Louis for bringing her this far, and thanks everyone who kept her in by voting for her. She asks if she’s got any regrets, and says ‘Not at all. Not. At. All.’, and actually sounds like she means it. Kate tells us to be on our feet for Chin Eye, and it’s all over.