Programme 1: 19th August 2006
"They said it couldn't get bigger! They said it couldn't get tougher! They said it couldn't get worse!" Were 'they' listening to Shayne Ward's album at the time, by any chance? "They were wrong!" Oh, goodie. Because everyone knows, exactly what the recording industry needs now is another Chico, right? There's a judges montage, and I for one am pleased to see that the Louis sequence involves several people throwing water. Hooray! Tonight, a brand new search begins. In unrelated news: stocks in earplugs are currently skyrocketing.
So, it's a new series. The third series, no less, making this the first of the find-me-a-popstar series to make it to three. Odd, really, when you consider that the brightest talent it was able to find for us in the first two was Steve Brookstein and Shayne Ward, you'd think it would have been decried by a clamouring mob as a mockery and a sham, but there's no accounting for taste, I suppose. (I guess it isimproving as it goes on. We had Will Young followed by McMammoth, and any good work Girls Aloud did in following Hear’Say was more than undone by One True Voice. Say what you like about Shayne Ward, and I do, at least he’s a step up from The Singing Greengrocer.-Joel) Anyway, we're back for the time being. We can't guarantee that we won't have a repeat of last year, where we're forced to give up in sheer disgust before the end of the series, but we're going to try to make it all the way through, and that's really the best we can hope for right now.
(Same old crappy titles. Yeeesh. Could this get any cheaper?)
Montage of crowds, Kate Thornton standing in the middle. Nobody appears to be handing her a copy of this month's Vogue in the hope that it might improve her outfit choices for the live shows, but we can hope, right? 'I Got The Music In Me', which we all remember from Nikki Sanderson's decidedly lacklustre performance on The X Factor: Battle Of The Stars plays while Kate informs us that a record-breaking 100,000 people applied for this year's show. (Last year was 75,000! I really hope it’s not going to increase by a third every year…-Joel) She doesn't, however, mention that the majority of them wouldn't have got anywhere near Simon, Sharon and Louis because that would ruin the magic of television, but whatever. This year we're going to London, Glasgow, Birmingham, Dublin, Bristol, Leeds, Newcastle and Manchester in the search for Britain's brightest new singing sensation. The aforementioned bright new star is clearly not to be found in anywhere in Wales, apparently. We kick off in Manchester, where the auditionees have turned up in their thousands. And seriously, folks: shitloads of people. This is going to be a looooong night.
Kate reminds us of the categories, which are the same as before. For those of you who can't remember, there are three: 16-24s, 25 and overs, and groups. Each is illustrated by a "good" and "bad" example. The bad example for the 16-24s is singing Shayne Ward's 'That's My Goal', and I have no words. (It’s a fine line between ‘he can’t compete with the lovely Shayne’ and ‘look at the shit we manage to peddle!’-Joel) Kate introduces the judges, in case we missed the bit about two minutes ago where they flashed their names up on the screen. Clearly the target audience of this show has a very short attention span, which I find really insul - oooh, shiny! Simon claims he puts his reputation on the line every time he does this show. Considering his reputation is generally for finding mediocre pop stars and encouraging them to record albums of bog-standard covers, I'm not exactly sure what he anticipates losing here. Sharon thinks people forgets that she is first and foremost a music manager. Again, how the twenty thousand trailers for her new chat show I've seen over the past three days are going to dispel that opinion, I have no clue. Louis...well, Louis stares vacantly at the camera in a failed attempt to look intimidating, and mumbles something that is clearly a lie because the last series proved that Louis Walsh always puts petty vendettas and rivalry ahead of the job at hand, namely finding and nurturing the best new talent the country has to offer, so Louis can just shut his yap right now.
First up in front of the judges is 40-year-old landscape designer Tim, who instantly reminds me of Kel from Kath and Kim. He has some moves with which to impress us, apparently. He practises with his headphones on in the waiting room. I don't think this is going to go well. Tim goes in to see the judges. Simon asks him why he's there, and Tim replies that he's had a lot of encouragement from Debbie, his longterm partner, who is apparently a harsh critic herself. Tim begins his performance, and the fact that the show gives him the loser edit before he even opens his mouth should give you some idea of how this is going to turn out. We are "treated" to echoey voiceovers of Tim encouraging himself to "find the beat" before he embarks on a wobbly rendition of 'All Night Long', while dancing like Taylor Hicks's dad. Oh my days - what have I let myself in for this year? Tim finishes, and Simon is left with an expression on his face that thousands of Livejournal users will doubtless cap in order to make "WTF?" icons from it. "What does your girlfriend do when you do that?" asks Simon, thoroughly bewildered. "Sometimes she says nothing," Tim admits. "If I get it spot on, she joins in." "She must love you very much," deadpans Sharon, and I giggle. Simon is left to deliver the smackdown, the upshot of which is "I've got absolutely no idea why you've had any encouragement whatsoever." Well, I imagine the producers encouraged him at his initial audition because they thought it would be funny, but again, admitting that on TV spoils the magic. "It's about as bad as it can possibly get," Simon finishes. The judges vote, and it's a unanimous no. Tim, to his credit, looks a bit upset but takes it on the chin and waves a cheery goodbye to the panel as he exits the Room o' Doom. (It really really doesn’t bode well for the editorial tone they’ve decided to take this series when the very first thing we see is a lengthy section on a hopeless loser.-Joel)
2Unlimited's 'No Limit' plays, so I guess that's the cue for our first montage of hopeless performers. Um, hooray? Somebody gives a performance of 'You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)' so fey that even Lance Bass would be "that's too queer for me, girlfriend". We cut to a sequence of the judges relaxing and bitching about everyone being really shit and wasting their time. First of all: speak to the producers. Second of all: they're not wasting your time, because if everyone who turned up to audition was brilliant, this show would be about three episodes shorter. Also, you're getting paid. Wasting our time? Sure. Wasting your time? I think not. (Wasting their own time as well. I mean, they probably had to take the afternoon off from Clarks and everything, just to humiliate themselves.-Joel)
Kate talks to 16-year-old Sean, who is very nervous and quite sweet. Also: very tiny. Sharon takes the opportunity to break out her mother-hen act and use her best reassuring voice to calm him down, which is one of the reasons that I like Sharon and find her entirely necessary. Louis? I'm still waiting for a reason to feel that way about you. Sean starts to sing, and his nerves are still causing him to shake and making his voice sound reedy, although not unpleasant. He dries up about a line and a half into the song, and Sharon tells him to take his time. Sean looks like he's about to cry, and Sharon asks him if he'd like to take a break and come back. Sean takes her up on the offer and Sharon advises him to go and get a drink of water. Kate gives him a hug. Sean goes and sits with his family in the very appropriately named holding area.
Still to come: Simon mentions a guest judge, and the show goes to great lengths to keep said judge's identity a secret, even though everybody totally knows it's Paula Abdul. And some more people who suck. (Careful of your wording, m’dear. It almost sounds like you think Paula Abdul sucks and then you and I would be having a serious talk. It’s a good thing I know you better than that.-Joel) And possibly a midget with an engagement ring, since we never did get to see that.
We return and it's a new day, and a new outfit for Kate, who tells us we're now in London. Um, WTF? Exactly how long a break were they planning to give Sean, exactly? We need some continuity, stat! Simon tells us that Louis and Sharon are going to be getting a shock, because they've heard these rumours that a guest judge has been invited along, and the rumours are true. "I've got no idea who it's going to be," says Sharon, who clearly doesn't check DigitalSpy on a regular basis. "Sometimes, you have to literally put a cat amongst the pigeons," says Simon. And sometimes you have to figuratively put a cat amongst the pigeons, which is the appropriate word in this case, Simon. Thankfully, the show doesn't attempt to drag the suspense out any further and admits that Paula Abdul is the guest judge, while playing 'Straight Up' on the soundtrack. I love that song, even if 'Vibeology' would've been my personal choice. John tells me that he has no idea who Paula Abdul is, and I resolve to smack him upside the head later for crimes against popular culture. She sold over 15 million records as a solo artist and received two Grammys. I have absolutely no shame in admitting that I own Paula Abdul's Greatest Hits CD, by the way. It's awesome. (Hells yeah.-Joel) Sharon hopes the judge is another woman. Louis thinks it might be Pete Waterman. Well, that would've been good too, but come on - in terms of sheer barely-conscious entertainment, you have to go with the Abdul, don't you? Or Janice Dickinson, but you could see where Paula Abdul would've been Simon's first choice. Paula enters the judging room, looking a tad sheepish I feel, and Sharon is joyous. Hugging Paula, she exclaims: "about time! I needed some help with these two." (Well quite. Because sometimes just having Sharon and Louis to put through the hapless losers on a sympathy vote just isn’t enough.-Joel) Simon seems genuinely amused, implying that the rumours that he hates Paula's guts on American Idol aren't entirely true.
The first act in to see the panel are a sister group called Pure Liberty, and let's just hope they're better than the Conway Sisters. They perform 'I'm Every Woman' with energy and some nice harmonies, even if their version is a tad rough around the edges. Paula dances in the way that only Paula can, and claps in the way that only Paula can. Dear producers: I know I bitched about you a lot earlier, but thank you for brining Paula Abdul back into my life. I love you. The sisters get excited and Sharon has to shush them. Louis says they remind him of "Sister Sledge, and the Pointers" and possibly Swing Out Sister and the Sisters of Mercy, because Louis can't think of any bands to compare them to that don't have the word "sister" in the title somewhere. (Once again, Louis fumbles around and then names the first black artist he can think of. With their complicated harmony they were rather more En Vogue than Pointer Sisters. Not as good as En Vogue, of course, but who is?-Joel) Simon calls the vocals "incredible", and says that they have the "likeability factor". Paula adores them and calls them "so much fun". 100% yes from Louis. 300% yes from Sharon. 1billion% yes from Paula. Infinity yes from Simon. Mathematicians the world over spontaneously drown themselves in the bathtub at the futility of their existences.
A montage of good performers. One girl sings 'I Will Always Love You', and if I'm perfectly honest, doesn't sound that great to my ears. Another chap looks a bit like a smilier, less dead-eyed Lemar and sings 'Something Inside (So Strong)', which is one of my favourite songs ever. 21-year-old receptionist Leona, who looks like the lovechild of Joss Stone and Javine, is next and sings 'Over The Rainbow', Eva Cassidy-version. (Girlfriend needs to ease up on the fake tans and home perms though.-Joel) Simon says, "it wasn't perfect, because you fell off the melody at certain points, but when it was on it was absolutely fantastic". I'd be inclined to agree, even if I would've gone for "pretty good" at the end rather than "absolutely fantastic". Also, Sharon keeps calling Louis "Lou-Lou", which has no relevance but I still want to mention it because it amuses me. We see the judges at lunch, and Paula enthuses about Leona. "Did I tell you we had talent in this country, or did I tell you we had talent in this country?" Simon gloats. "When I said bring it on...you done brought it," Paula admits, in a ghetto if not entirely grammatical fashion. I was desperately hoping for somebody to finish that sentence with "it's already been broughten", but sadly my hopes were dashed - and not for the last time this series, I suspect.
54-year-old Donna gets some applause from the holding room, though for precisely what I'm not quite sure. She tells the judges she wants to be as big as Madonna. And if you're looking for fat jokes here, I suggest you go elsewhere: I may be cheap, but I'm not that cheap. Donna sings 'Like A Prayer', heavily-accented, arhythmically, and just generally not very well. Paula contacts her lawyer with regard to retracting her earlier statement about the quality of British talent. Simon says "We've missed off the first part of her name here, haven't we?" "Mad," Louis completes the joke. Just as well, because Mad Donna released the mash-up of 'Ray Of Light' and 'The Wheels On The Bus' and would still probably consider this an enormous slight on their reputation. Donna asks to do another song, and Simon refuses. "Please, put me through," says Donna. "You've got to stop saying please, because it's not going to make any difference," says Simon. "Please," says Donna. It's like one of those hilarious 1970s foreign-people-are-hilarious sitcoms, isn't it? Paula throws her head back and cackles wildly at this exchange, bless her. Donna asks for yet another chance to sing another song, and despite the number of people yelling "no!" (several of whom I expect are on the production team), launches into 'I Have A Dream'. Simon is tired and getting irritable, and says as much, but Donna continues to sing. Paula gets up and walks off set, because she's laughing so hard she might actually headbutt the desk. Simon ushers Donna out without even bothering to vote, and comments on how Donna has "made [Paula] hysterical". In fairness, that was never going to be very difficult, was it? (Indeed. If I recall correctly, the last time Paula was hysterical was because she saw a pencil.-Joel)
We then get a montage of Paula laughing at various hopeless wannabes, and really I think the entire show should just have been an hour of this. I smell a BAFTA, I really do. One girl sings 'Stop' without moving her lips (seriously, it is FREAKY) and Sharon and Paula turn to each other before cracking up. Paula summarises: "America has delusional people, but honey, so does your country." And am I the only person disappointed here that no one has signed Paula up for a six-part series exploring the similarities between Britain and America? I'd totally watch that. 39-year-old forklift truck driver Francesco is next in, and sings 'You Raise Me Up'. Paula cringes at the bum notes, and he also gets the loser edit, implying that he is the slowest singer ever. ROFLOMG, I am so sure. You could've stopped him any time you like, and don't pretend otherwise. Eventually, he finishes. (One – I get the feeling they were repeating the footage, to abet their ‘he went on for ages joke.’ Two – I laughed and laughed and hate myself for it.-Joel) "Do we want a second song?" asks Louis, and I'll admit, as much as it shames me, that I totally laughed at that. Francesco does not get through.
Still to come: we go back in time to visit Sean. Thank fuck for that. Adverts, and a trail for Sharon's teatime chatshow, but don't you DARE forget she's a music manager first and foremost, you bunch of shits.
Back from the break, lots of people want to be famous. You're shocked, I know. 21-year-old student hairdresser and mum of two Jay (or possibly Jae? Or J? I don't know. Name astons, already!) is Mariah Carey's biggest fan. Jay sings 'Hero' for the judges, with lots of trilling and melisma, and is not very good. Simon and Louis burst out laughing (Paula, curiously, does not seem to do so). Simon declares the performance "way off Mariah Carey". Jay then does herself no favours by admitting "my voice is strong, but I need help", prompting the inevitable "you need a helpline" retort from Simon. It's a no for Jay, who pronounces Simon "rude" and looks rather upset.
X Factor Pod, full of crying people with shattered dreams. One girl is upset that everything she based her life on is wrong. I think we covered this last series, did we not? A group of friends sing 'Top Of The World', but don't appear to have a band name. They harmonise very nicely, despite their acute cheesiness and the fact that they look like they're about to perform a rehearsed reading of Private Lives in a church hall. Simon thought he would hate it, but admits that "if I shut my eyes, it was fantastic". Paula compliments their "fresh spin" on the song, and Sharon admits they "made my day". Simon wants to bottle them and sell them as some kind of smile tonic, or possibly some kind of alternative to Prozac. Four times yes, and they're through. Kate's voiceover refers to them as The Unconventionals, and I don't know if that's their official band name (dear God, I hope not), but we'll keep it for now. (Would it have hurt them to have some sort of costume theme? Just all in black, or something, I don’t ask for much. They looked like they’d got caught in an explosion at a rummage sale on the way to the audition.-Joel)
Next up is 31-year-old factory worker Oncar Judge (I have no idea if I spelt that correctly, so please forgive me. I cannot say it enough: name astons please, editors!). He has freckles and a dodgy yellow cardigan, and wants them to see "the entertainer" in him. Gahhhh. Sorry, just hearing that word in relation to this show makes me think of Chico, which in turn makes me want to run headfirst into the wall. Simon asks who Oncar is as good as, and Oncar replies "Michael Jackson, Daniel Bedingfield, George Michael." (My cousin: ‘Way to set yourself up for a fall!’-Joel) Oncar proceeds to sing 'Earth Song', one of my least favourite songs ever, and in entirely the wrong key to boot. Hilariously, Oncar then throws himself at the backdrop and looks surprised when it crumples because he thought it was a solid wall. Um, he just walked in from behind it, though. Wouldn't he have seen that it's clearly a thick bit of paper on some scaffold? Also, I'm 99% sure he just said "fuck", pre-watershed on ITV1. I am appalled, obviously. He then sinks to his knees with a thud, causing Paula to cringe in sympathy pain and Sharon to exclaim "that's got to hurt". Oncar insists that it doesn't. Oncar admits that his voice isn't great, but that he's a true performer, citing his success in karaoke competitions (without looking at the screen, no less). And there's absolutely nothing I can say to that to make it sound any more tragic than it already is, so I shall hold back. Four nos, from the judges. Oncar leaves, saying "there's only one judge." "Who's that?" asks Simon. And I really thought he was going to say "God" or something here, but no; Oncar replies "that's me, Oncar Judge." Ooh, I see what he did there. Clever. "Well, that was ridiculous," says Simon. "And he's broken the set." Hee.
We're still in London, and desperate for his big break is 26-year-old Jonathan. Jonathan is hot. He explains that he's a full-time carer for his mother, who's been ill for a very long time. Jonathan is hot AND sensitive. Marry me, Jonathan! He tells us that his mum fully supports his decision to enter the show, and I'm drowning in a bucket of "awwww" right now. I'm so easily bought, it's not even funny. Jonathan is going to sing a bit of swing for us, which puts me off him very slightly, I have to admit. Not a swing fan, sorry. But I can introduce him to better music on our honeymoon. Jonathan sings 'Have You Met Miss Jones?', sounding not entirely unlike Robbie WIlliams. His voice needs a bit of work, but there's definitely potential there. He does a bit of a shimmy at the end, and the judges crack up, clearly having all fallen in love with him in the same way that I have. Back off, bitches, I saw him first. The judges see him through to the next round. "Your mom's going to be very proud, she raised a great son," says Paula. Awwww. "Good guys do win," says Simon as Jonathan leaves the room. Jonathan poses in the exit doors and declares "hurrah!" Heh. He rings his mum, who is very pleased. Jonathan's mum comments on the situation via speakerphone, and sounds lovely, telling us that Jonathan deserves it for being such a giving person. I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the finals at all, because I think this show loves a cute guy with a moneyshot story and a nice smile. And I have to admit I'll take hot full-time carer anyday over singing binman. (His eyes alone will get him to the final 12. He also has A Big Gay Voice, and we know how well that turned out for Shayne.-Joel)
It's the end of the day, and Paula is saying goodbye. She hugs the others. On the bus, Simon, Sharon and Louis enthuse about Jonathan, again, some more. Still to come: Simon gets yelled at by an old lady, and declares Sean too nervous and fragile.
The show has returned to Manchester, and we see Simon, Sharon and Louis getting off the coach. Except that this makes no sense continuity-wise, because we're about to see Sean again, and you are not telling me that the show upped sticks to London for a day and then came back to see the guy they advised to take a short break for a glass of water. Do me a fucking favour. The show even recaps Sharon's previous comment, as if to draw attention to its own completely ridiculous timeline. Anyway, I'm not going to let the first show of the series give me an ulcer, so we'll move on. Sean goes back in, and still sounds on the verge of tears a little bit. His voice is still shaking, and his nerves really are affecting him. He fluffs the lyrics a few times too. Sharon says that he was 1,000% better the second time around (sigh, and really not. Slightly better, yes, but still way too nervous and shakey. Not that I could've done better, but hey, that's why I'm blogging and not singing) and that if they put him through he'll be 10,000 times better next time. It's a yes from Sharon. It's a no from Simon, "for all the right reasons". Sharon asks what his reasons are, and Simon says "too nervous, too fragile". And I agree. He's a nice kid, clearly, and there's definitely a good voice in there, but if he can't keep his nerves together in his audition, I think live TV might actually kill him. Louis really likes Sean, but he's very nervous. But Louis agrees with Sharon and puts Sean through. Sean cries, and gets a hug from Sharon. Simon advises him to lose his nerves, and I really hope he does. (My cousin, who sang a bit as a teenager, said that she was plagued by nerves and thought that if she’d had the chance to sing for people a few more times she’d have got over them. I bow to her knowledge and assume that Sean will get better. Though I bet it’s spelt, like, Shauwne, or something.-Joel) Sean gets lots of hugs from Kate and his family. Backstage, Simon is concerned that they've just "sent a lamb out to the wolves". Louis says they have to give him a chance, but Simon remains unconvinced. Montage of Simon being "evil", which is an inappropriate segue given that his concerns for Sean were fairly justified.
The last person in to see the judges is choir singer Lorraine, who brings in her 86-year-old mother-in-law Edna for protection. Oh, for crying out loud. Edna approaches the judges, and is kind of brilliant in her wide-eyed explanation of the situation. Lorraine sings 'Begin The Beguine'. Simon starts sniggering. The editors play up the drama of Edna's displeased reaction by playing the theme from Jaws. And really, I think we could've got the dramatic tension and humour of the situation without that, but whatever. Simon calls Lorraine's performance "a bit lifeless", cheerily enough, and asks for Edna's opinion. Edna liked it all, and would buy it. "Bit biased," Simon points out. Simon explains why he found Lorraine's performance terrible, citing lack of personality and performance. And Lorraine seems nice enough, but it did seem rather wobbly on the vocal front (not that we could hear it over the sniggering and the movie themes, but no one watches this show to hear people singing, do they? Heaven forfend!) and it's a no from all three judges. Lorraine takes it on the chin, and well done to her for that, but to no one's surprise, Edna is less pleased. Edna explains her anger to Kate, largely based on the fact that Simon laughed. Edna goes back in. Simon is still laughing. Edna asks him what he's done, rather in the manner of a nursery school teacher. "I laughed. I always laugh," Simon replies. "No you don't!" Edna retorts. Simon apologises. "Listen, Simon! You think you're better than everybody. I think you was very ignorant," Edna admonishes, with a steely glint in her eyes that frightens me sat here on my sofa, despite the distance of a TV screen and the time-space continuum separating me from her. The music swells, and we're led to believe that Edna's going to choke a bitch or something, but no. Simon says sorry, and a Hallelujah chorus plays. Lame! We're led to believe that this is the first time Simon has had to apologise for anything ever, despite the fact that millions of us saw him apologise to Will for his harsh comments during the first series of Pop Idol, so what. Ever. Backstage, Sharon and Louis take the piss, and Simon admits that he feels very small now. In the X Factor pod, Edna sums up: "Why these girls scream over him. He's not even good-looking. He hasn't even got his own teeth." And there's probably a Shayne Ward joke in there somewhere, but I've been here for nearly two hours now writing this thing and I don't have the energy any more.
Next week: someone with scary teeth singing 'Unchained Melody', someone doing backflips, a lady in a polkadot dress flashes Louis, someone else is incredible, someone else is loved by Sharon, a Clay Aiken lookalike sings Donna Summer, and Louis Walsh throws a drink over someone who then throws a drink over him. Seriously, with Grace on Big Brother, Lady Victoria Hervey on Love Island and now this, this is truly the summer of the churlishly thrown beverage. Also, someone else is great, and looks a bit like Ben Shepherd in the brief glimpse we get. Unless they just cut in a shot of Ben Shepherd from The Xtra Factor and hoped we didn't notice. We might still be here. We might not. (We might be half here. ‘This week, everyone was shit.’-Joel)