Saturday, September 29, 2007

Fairytales don't come true

Boot camp 1 - 29th September, 2007

TONIGHT! It's Boot Camp! And an X-Factor DOUBLE BILL! Oh, growly voiceover man, Simon Cowell and ITV, with this shite overload you are really spoiling us. Fear not, though. We've watched it so you don't have to, and there'll be a Bitch Factor double bill tonight as well. I'm kicking it off, and Steve will be here later for the second instalment. (About that - it probably won't be up until Monday at the earliest. Sorry! I've had a right bitch of a weekend. - Steve)

The stakes are high, kids. That's why everyone is crying and shouting and screeching and, in the case of Dannii, holding her head in her hands. Even Dermot is crying, not at the horror of what has become of his career, one presumes.

He welcomes us to The X-Factor. For the very first time, everyone's being chucked into one big stately home building for boot camp. I don't know where it is. He's not told us yet. Perhaps later. The campers are lined up outside, and the judges walk onto the balcony, Evita-stylee, to address the gathered hordes, who cheer like morons. Simon talks to them through a microphone. I'd say having them all inside and talking to them there like a normal person through the sheer power of normal acoustics might be less wanky and pretentious, but there you go. He announces that they will be working with everyone this week, and the mentors will be distributed after boot camp.

We're with the boys first up. They've been asked to perform a song they'd like to release as their first single, because obviously releasing a cover is what everyone should do and no original thoughts will be countenanced here. The judges look thoroughly bored as they listen to various renditions - The Greatest Love Of All; Lean On Me; and one of the sparkly musical theatre boys sings You'll Never Walk Alone, which is now dead to me thanks to Ray's bastardisation of it last year. (I choose to think that all the MOR song choices were subtle digs at the show itself, but perhaps I give these people too much credit. - Steve)

"Rid" from last week is introduced to us again, complete with Phantom music. They're so clearly setting him up as an utter dickwad, which may or may not be the case but he's old enough to see through their ruse, surely? He's dressed in black and wearing sunglasses on a cloudy day. When he is on "the operatic stage", he doesn't feel like he's "connecting with the masses". Yes, because being on this show is bound to secure you widespread popularity. Not disdain or disgust or anything. He sings Delilah, in a variety of keys, but he has a nice voice. Simon looks vaguely amused. Sharon says she wants to throw things at him. Simon tells her that he is good and can sing. That doesn't matter, obviously, and she maintains that he's revolting. So was Ray, dear. And Chico, come to that. "He's the most conceited person I've met in my life," says Simon. "He's repulsive. But he can sing."

More random snippets from boys. Being reminded of names might be good. All I can remember is the respective sob stories, and I can't be arsed to look them up. Simon thinks the winner will be a boy. Shocker.

Oh, here's Ryan, and Dermot reminds us that he is A SOLDIER. Hands up who remembers this sob story? Yes, that's right, he's the one WHOSE FRIENDS ARE DEAD. He is nervous. How the FUCK can you be nervous singing for these four when you have been FIGHTING IN IRAQ and seen YOUR FRIENDS DIE? He sings Over The Rainbow. Yawn. Then he forgets the words, and has to be reminded of them by Simon. Cue footage of lots of other people forgetting their words, accompanied by Boyzone's Words on the soundtrack. Clever.

Leon's mind is back at home, and he wants to win for his mum. Yawn, and also a bit of vomit. He sings a Michael Buble album track, and Simon tells him that there is a very good reason why songs aren't released as singles. Leon looks heartbroken, so Dermot strokes his arm, which must be a comfort, and then he is hugged by some of the other boys. (There hasn't been nearly enough of that on this show, not by a long shot. - Steve)

Well, that ten-minute compilation is all we're going to see of the boys, and now the judges will do a spot of deliberating. They can't agree on "Rid", because Simon loves him and Sharon loathes him. She complains that nobody is interested in what she's got to say, which is true, but it's not a new phenomenon.

Finally a decision is made. The tension is almost too much. Ryan is kicked out - so much for his sob story. (But he has friends WHO ARE DEAD. I don't understand how this could happen!-Joel) One of the sparkly musical theatre boys goes. Little Luke from last week is staying in. Leon stays, as does the one from last week with the nice hair. "Rid" is staying on as well. Lots of squealing and weeping. I've never been so grateful for an ad break.

It's the girls next, with much preening and diva-ish warming-up. They've been given a slightly more creative task - to sing a song to reflect the happiest or the saddest time in their life. That blinkin' Paris sings Everything I Do I Do It For You, which makes me want to kick her. Kimberley the country-singing barmaid is back, looking madly blonde and buxom. Simon clearly hasn't warmed to her in her absence. She sings And I'm Telling You..., which I'm now thoroughly bored of. Sharon tells Simon he should put her in a girl group. He replies: "I wouldn't put her anywhere." Dannii says Kimberley is fun. Simon says Kimberley "is as much fun as putting a cut finger in a glass of vinegar."

Singing about the saddest time in their lives gives the girls a chance to perform songs that they once performed at a relative's funeral. Yes, that's right, folks, some people have loved ones WHO ARE DEAD. Simon seems bewildered at the number of funeral stories being wheeled out, like it's not all entirely his fault. He then describes one contestant as "Mel B crossed with a transvestite, who's put her make-up on in the dark", and another as "the singing version of Louis Walsh". Louis laughs, because he's a cretin.

Simon is on the phone to someone who I can only hope is Sinitta, telling them that the girls' try-outs have been "an unmitigated disaster". Sharon hopes they will get better, which is a nice piece of optimism. Dermot speaks to 14-year-old Emily, who was ONCE DEAD, but is now FOURTEEN, and therefore YOUNG, so we are rooting for her, yes? She goes in to see the judges and sings Feelin' Good, which pretty much nobody should sing ever because Nina Simone's is the definitive version, but she's still decent. And guess what that means? I'll give you a clue. The girls have been rubbish all morning. The judges have been despairing. They've taken a break. They've come back and heard one good song from one good singer.

Yes! Of course! That's the trigger for a load of good auditionees! (This damn show.-Joel) Or supposedly good auditionees, none of whom I think are particularly amazing. Raquel, who did the splits in her first audition, wants to be a "credible" performer. I'd suggest not going on The X-Factor would be a first step towards that credibility, but looks like you've fallen at that hurdle. Simon asks her how she's getting on. She says she's doing OK but she's having to keep to herself. He concurs, telling her not to make friends, and go as far as hating everyone, as that will ensure that she does well. If she could hold an acapella tune, that might also help. She sings Against All Odds, and finishes with the splits (nothing more credible than that! - Steve), and Simon tells her she will go far in the business. As the judges confer, Simon confesses that he loves her "but she can't sing. She's ruthless, sexy, ambitious. Every trait, I love." Quite perceptively for him, Louis adds: "She's a female version of you."

More montage of deliberations. Paris is going home, and cries. Kimberley is going through. Raquel is going home, and leaves the room while exchanging meaningful rueful looks with Simon. Emily stays, and reminds us: "Last year, I could have been dead." (I'm alive! Vote for me!-Joel) (When she gets through to the live shows, which she undoubtedly will, I'm going to call her Zombie Emily in every recap. - Steve)

Louis has had an idea that COULD SEND SHOCKWAVES THROUGH THE COMPETITION. Of course, this isn't scripted at all. He thinks that some of the individuals they've sent home should be put together into a group. Simon tells him that he's an idiot and it won't work, but will consider the "maybes". Nine girls and eight boys are offered this reprieve of sorts. They hug and kiss Louis. Simon is scathing, saying that fairytales don't come true. Unless there's a very good overarching narrative, of course. Ads.

Dermot returns to remind us what happened three minutes ago. For fuck's sake. There is lots of bickering between the boys who are trying to put a group together. The grown-ups are up next, and because they are so very old, they've been asked to pick a song that would appeal to a younger audience.

Icaro, who I hated first time round, thinks he has wide-ranging appeal. He comes onto the stage and kisses the floor, because he is "too much full of emotion". He warbles a song I don't recognise. It's awful, but no worse than he was in the initial audition. Which is exactly the case for most of the rest of this group, who sucked first off, and they suck now, and I hold the judges entirely responsible, and have no sympathy for them whatsoever. (Word.-Joel) Dannii suggests that the four of them should enter in order to make up the numbers, which would be awesome. (She'd totally win. I bet that was their plan all along! - Steve) She wanders round chatting on her mobile to someone I like to think is Kylie, and says: "If I get the overs [over-25s], I'm screwed, there is absolutely nothing I can do with them." (Yeah, like any of the judges allow their private phone calls to be recorded. Pull the other one, SHOW. - Steve)

Daniel is a single dad who wants a better life for him and his three-year-old son. He has nice hair. He will be good, I predict. He sings Umbrella, but pitches it a bit too high, and it is tuneful if powerless. One good audition = more good auditions. Seriously, how stupid do they think we are? It is the SAME EVERY WEEK. The last one in is Niki from Birmingham, who wouldn't have entered if her dad WHO IS DEAD hadn't applied for her prior to HIS DEATH. She sings Natural Woman, and Simon tells her that the song was too big for her. He is disappointed because he was relying on her. (Also too big for her? That top. It made her look like a bungalow. - Steve)

Deliberations - Daniel is staying. Dorothy and Eric are going home. Icaro and the opera widow are staying. Icaro does somersaults, and Simon smiles through gritted teeth. Niki is staying. She thinks she has done her dad, WHO IS DEAD, proud. Ads.

Dermot welcomes us back, and it's time for the groups. Simon is looking forward to seeing how "Professor Walsh's experiment pans out", and Dermot takes it upon himself to remind us what exactly that experiment was, despite the fact it happened ten minutes ago. The newly-formed all-boy group kick out one of their members, and his former colleagues roundly condemn his attitude.

Same Difference are back! Remember them? The speaking-in-unison, nonsensically-happy incest twins? They bound into the room, and Simon introduces them to Louis, whom They Have Not Met Because He Was Not Invited To Judge This Series Before The Lack Of Chemistry Demanded That The Judging Panel Was Changed In The First Twenty Minutes Of The First Show. Louis says: "You look a bit like the Osmonds." Louis? Likening an act to one from 30 years ago? I think that calls for a Drink! Same Difference look a bit puzzled, and Louis explains: "You look happy." Dannii murmurs: "They are happy." They sing Flying Without Wings. Simon smirks. Louis says: "I didn't think there were people like that in the world. They're so happy-happy." The judges conclude that they'd be on the pier at Blackpool, but bottom of the bill. Ouch. (I love The Happy Incest Twins so much. It warms my bitter Grinch-like heart to see them so smiley.-Joel) (Happy Incest Twins for the win! I am totally serious about this. - Steve)

So it's started off badly. What will happen now? Well, there are lots of bad, bad groups, and Louis feels: "It can't get any worse." Simon is losing the will to live. But look! What's this? It's the newly-formed girl band, Hope, which features ruthless-sexy-ambitious Raquel. They look like the Pussycat Dolls, ie slutty and glittery, who coincidentally are playing on the incidental music. They claim that the past few hours have been "a journey". Drink! Oh, shock, they sing Dontcha. Raquel vamps it up in Simon's direction, but this is shambolic and sixth-formery. Simon tells them that they didn't use the girls who are the best singers, and tells his judging colleagues that he "is not excited".

The newly-formed boy band appear to have chosen the name Future Proof, which is a bit shit. (It might be Future-proof, like technology that won't get broken when it interacts with newer models. Not that that's any better than Future Proof, which presumably means that at some undetermined point in the future they will prove that they aren't shit, or something.-Joel) They are looking urban and street and all sorts. They sing If You Don't Know Me By Now in close harmony, and I quite like them. Simon says: "I told you it would work." HA HA HA LULZ. Louis says: "Sometimes I'm right." Very, VERY occasionally.

Here's a montage of the good groups, who we don't get to hear sing, which includes a speccy bunch who look like they've escaped from the chess club, (I heart the big bunch of poorly-coordinated geeks. It's like if Blazin' Squad came from Windsor.-Joel) and the traditional earnest r'n'b boys, who have not invoked God yet, but I'm sure they will eventually live up to the proud path blazed for them in previous series. (That'll be eleventh place, then. - Steve)

The judges have made their decisions. Same Difference are staying. As predicted, the earnest r'n'b boys are staying, as are the chess club boys, and Hope, and Future Proof.

Later tonight! Boot camp continues, and I don't have to recap it! Dermot cries! The judges find out who they'll be mentoring! The excitement is tangible.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Fat people + foreigners = comedy gold

Audition show 6: 22nd September 2007

The show starts with the same recaps of the same shit that we’ve seen fifteen times. The same people again and again and again and again. TONIGHT!! They have saved the best for last – by which they mean least shit, I think. There is certainly no evidence of ‘best’ in the upcoming events..

They’re in Manchester again. What? I’ve given up trying to understand the chronology of this programme. Dermot explains the categories. I stab my own ears out. Then Dermot introduces the judges again. For crying out loud, this show. Start the fucking programme and stop telling us things we already know. Even if someone had never seen an episode of this programme they wouldn’t need all that information – people audition and that’s it. It’s all fairly straightforward.

We meet 46-year-old hairdresser Jackie. Jackie loves performing. Jackie thinks this could be her last chance. Jackie says she’s going to give it 110%. Jackie speaks entirely in X-Factor clichés to a terrifying degree. Jesus. They really could just invent a generator of stock phrases and stop filming the actual show. Just flash up the words ‘This is my last chance’; ‘I want this more than anything’; ‘Performing makes me forget my troubles’; and ‘I’m going to give 110%’ on a blank screen while the chase music from Benny Hill plays. It would be about the same level of interesting. (Useless fact: I switched over a bit late, and I missed Jackie's intro. I still, however, knew her name was Jackie before the show told me. I knew the show was formulaic; I hadn't realised the contestants were going that way too. - Steve) Jackie sings ‘Something Inside So Strong’. Well, ‘sing’ is such a strong word. She bellows it in a marble-mouthed sort of way. Simon says she has an odd voice. ‘Like there’s someone else in there’. It’s true that her singing voice bears no relation to her speaking voice – she sounded a bit like Vic Reeves singing In The Club Style. (It's an epidemic! - Steve) They all had trouble understanding her and its noes all round. [But interestingly Simon's comments triggered her to visit an ENT specialist, and he found that she has some godawful bronchial disease. So The X-Factor SAVED HER LIFE. Thus she is NOT DEAD. - Carrie]

In a shocking twist, this is the first of many noes including a weird guy with a mullet to end all mullets and yellow glasses singing ‘Mr Blue Sky’. There are two weird boys called Creativity Within Anger who sing Linkin Park. (I thought their name was "C with an A", perhaps because they both worked at C&A. God, I'm showing my age. - Steve) (I'm not sure. I think they said it was 'C within A' but then explained that that stood for 'Creativity Within Anger' if only because 'Creativity With An Anger' makes absolutely no sense.-Joel)They are clearly taking the piss.

We see a parade of lots of shit people and lots of noes. During which the judges are wearing loads of different outfits. For fuck’s sake. Don’t try and claim they’re in the same place or in chronological order in your bizarre desperation to say ‘lots of bad people in a row!’ and then prove yourself immediately wrong by showing that the judges are wearing different clothes and that these things clearly took place at different times in different places. This fucking show.

Dermot says ‘it’s been a terrible start’, which it has, but not in the way he means. We meet 14-year-old Luke. He’s a wee bit gay. His voice hasn’t broken. He’s very sweet. He says, ‘When I sing, people usually enjoy it’. He sounds like a woman. Not a boy. Not a man. A definite woman. Kind of like when they get women to voice boys in cartoons. He sings ‘Maggie May’ and it’s pleasant. Sounds like a woman, but a woman with quite a nice voice. Not awesome by any means, but he has a nice tone. Louis says he was the best boy today. Simon says it was a poor choice of song. Luke starts to cry, so Sharon gets her Mumsy on. Like, immediately she snaps to attention and starts comforting him. Crying children are catnip to Sharon O. Luke wanted to impress Simon. Simon says he has to come back tomorrow and sing something more poppy. ('I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman'? Just a thought. - Steve)

Schoolgirl Annalisa is very confident and bubbly. Bubbly in a good way, not in a ‘euphemism for so annoying you want to crack her in the jaw’ sort of way. She’s 17. She sings ‘And I Am Telling You’ and has an extremely adult voice, and manner. She has a nice little growl to her voice and really performs the song rather than just hitting the notes. She’s kind of great. Simon says ‘I think you’ve got an incredible voice!’ and he also likes her attitude and performance. Yeses all round, deservedly.

Guess what, viewers. Brace yourselves because I think this might come as something of a shock. Annalisa? By being good and going through? Has given rise to a sudden spate of talented performers and suddenly there’s lot of yeses. I know! It’s unheard of! A hot boy in a vest goes through. Again, all the yeses come from the judges in different outfits and see above re: the utter retardation of it all. This fucking show. [Also, several of these clips clearly have only two judges on the panel. WHAT THE FUCK? - Carrie.]

Zita is 46. She is, if I can place the accent correctly, Nigerian. She wants to win for England and is wearing a red suit and a union flag t-shirt. (Win for England? Haven't all the winners so far been English? What the hell? - Steve) This entire section basically exists because isn’t it hilarious how African people sound different! She sang it ‘cundle in the wind!’ These hilarious foreigners trying to sing in English! It’s like teaching a parrot to speak! This fucking, small-minded, racist, pile of crap show. She gets three yeses anyway, Simon being the no [on the basis that she sang "cundle" rather than candle. He ACTUALLY SAYS THAT. - Carrie] . We won’t see her again.

44-year old Raj invested life savings of £50k into his dream of being a singer. He quit his job and lost relationships to it. He’s so clearly going to be shit. Oh, guess what! He is. He drones some weird little song I don’t know. One he wrote himself maybe? They try as hard as they can to break it to him gently that he’s shit. He keeps going on about ‘it will happen!’ possibly in Japan or America. They keep trying to tell him that no, it wont. He says he’s worked with people for years, who would have told him if he was shit. No dear, they took your money. Some people in this life aren’t very nice and will lie to you if it suits their ends to extort money from you. It’s all rather depressing.

42-year-old Barbara is here to prove her husband wrong because he left her 2 months ago. ["My husband, who IS A BASTARD." - Carrie.] Jesus fucking Christ. I don’t know where to begin with the flaws in that plan. I mean, seriously. She claims that she’s going to sing Barbra Streisand’s ‘Somewhere’. Louis loves Streisand. Of course. Oh, she actually means ‘Somewhere’ from West Side Story. Perhaps sung by Ms Streisand, but certainly not ‘Barbra Streisand’s “Somewhere”’. She bellows it out in a largely tuneful and wholly theatrical way. She has a bit of wobble in the middle. Sharon yelps ‘Good for you, Barbara!’ Simon, asking for Louis’s opinion, calls him LouLou, which I find oddly sweet. Simon, rightly, says no. The rest say yes because they’ve bought into the lie that debasing yourself on national television is the correct way to prove you’re over someone rather than, you know, getting on with your life in a dignified manner.

A boy called Ryan sings N*Sync’s ‘Pop’. It is not good. He gets noes. Two horsey girls called ‘Disco Divas’ sing ‘...Baby, One More Time’ dressed in school uniform, but with tartan pleated skirts rather than Britney’s grey. When Simon queries this, one says ‘we didn’t have any grey skirts’, which I found hugely amusing. [Me too! - Carrie.]

A Japanese guy called Hiro shouts ‘Stay With Me’ and gets four noes (but maybe he can go back in time and try again? - Steve).

Next up is Emma. She is 17. She is, to be blunt, massively overweight. As is her entire family. I honestly think the term ‘morbidly obese’ would come into play. Her Dad made her dress, which is quite pretty, but wholly inappropriate, looking like something from a beauty pageant or a bridesmaid. In the background, the music from ‘The Flumps’ plays. That is fucking inappropriate. I’m fully aware that we write nasty things about the people who go on here, but they’re very unlikely to see it and we focus more on the show’s presentation of them and on people who are horrible rather than people who are just a bit fat or stupid or foreign. (I love how our defence is "they were never meant to see it!" I'll ring our lawyers and instruct them accordingly. - Steve) I mean, she’ll watch this back, and see that music played and see how she’s being presented for utter ridicule. It’s just not on. Her mum says that her parents have ‘pushed her and pushed her and pushed her’ because her mum used to be in the choir. Jesus Christ, people, stop living through your children. It doesn’t work. Emma sings ‘My Heart Will Go On’ and isn’t very good at all. She has no power and no tuning either. She loses the words halfway through and says that she can’t go on. And the worst thing is she knows she’s bad but her horrible parents have forced her into it.

Noes all around, in a fairly nice manner. Emma goes out and of course her parents come storming in. Simon says ‘you’ve got to look at yourselves’ and blames them for encouraging her to do something she clearly isn’t good at. ‘We haven’t pushed her!’ says her mum. Lying bitch. You just said that you ‘pushed her and pushed her and pushed her’. People, I repeat: do not do this to your children. Emma’s mum says that Emma has ‘won awards’. Simon responds that, ‘People who’ve won a rosette in the Donkey Derby don’t go on to win the Grand National.’ Harsh but fair. In the Booth of Bitterness all her family say she won’t stop and she’ll try again next year. God I hope she watches it back. The ridicule bit is bad but hopefully she’ll see how bad she is and pursue something else. It’s all rather depressing.

Personal trainer Rhiddion is next. I have absolutely no idea how one would spell that name, so consider that a guess. (I thought perhaps it was meant to be Gideon but the registrar of births in his district was Scooby Doo or something. - Steve) He goes by the name of Rid anyway. He’s very pleased with himself because he sing operas and he thinks that there will be no-one in the young group singing opera. Apart from ALL OF THEM. Seriously, opera is the new ‘You Raise Me Up' in terms of being abused at audition. Simon asks what he’s going to sing and he says it’s ‘about an Italian bloke finding his first love.’ Which, I wager, is not the title of the song.
‘So it’s a love song?’
‘Good. Sing it to Dannii please.’
It sounds a lot like ‘All Coming Back To Me Now’. Dannii flicks her hair and swoons as he sings. He’s actually not very good. They say he’s too opera and you couldn’t sing, say, Dancing Queen. He proves them wrong by sounding much better doing a pop song but still a bit mannered and ‘La la LAAAAA!’ about the whole thing. Dannii says no. Louis, Simon and Sharon say yes, so Rid is through.

In another shock twist, yeses beget yeses and we see lots of people go through. Some frog faced brat called Matthew goes through but I thought he was a joke contestant because he was so awful. A girl called Emily sings Xtina’s ‘Beautiful’ and goes through. A boy called Adam sings something about ‘jump so high’ and goes through. (He ought to have been hot, but he wasn't. - Steve)

Charlie, a barman with nice hair, is asked ‘Do you think you can win?’ and responds ‘Who doesn’t?’, which is a great answer to that question, because it implies ‘even the delusional bridge trolls think they can win, so why shouldn’t I?’ He sings Mika’s ‘Grace Kelly’ and does the high bits. It was odd but I quite liked it. He goes through.

Stephanie from Lancashire sings ‘Ben’. She is awful, glassy and shrill. She gets four yeses, bizarrely. Simon says ‘I think you could be a little bit special’. No comment. [I thought this was the most mannered performance of the night. But I'm prepared to be proved wrong. - Carrie.]

A big fat lass wearing a leather coat and a newsboy cap (please can we embargo newsboy caps? They never do you favours, kids) wants to be Madonna. She’s called Dawn. She used to be an apprentice jockey. Louis starts to laugh. So does Sharon. They’re laughing cos she’s fat and because they’re aresholes. ‘Hahah! She’s quite fat but she was a jockey! HAHAHA!’ We’re allowed to laugh but we don’t do it in her face. Have some respect, judges. Dawn tries to sing ‘Cherish’ and has the words on a piece of paper. She has a whisper of a voice. Simon makes Louis and Sharon leave because they’re still laughing. We finally see the fabled ‘Sharon walks into the door moment’ and it’s rather lost its impact after being previewed about 46,531 times. Dawn laughs too. Sharon has a really infectious laugh and I start giggling. Dawn starts to sing again. Dannii laughs and gets sent out too. Dawn says ‘maybe next year’ and Simon agrees. She’s very good-humoured about the whole thing, when she’d be within her rights to be furious.

They recap for us Luke singing and getting told to come back. Obviously 30 whole minutes ago is too long to remember for the drooling simpletons that are this show’s target audience. He has come back with a new song under his belt and sings ‘You Raise Me Up’ but only the chorus. He chickens out of the key change on the chorus repeat. He really does have a lovely tone but his voice hasn’t broken properly. Seriously, come back when you’ve gone through puberty. Simon tells him off for not learning the verse. He says he didn’t have enough time, which is balls. I know a verse and chorus to loads of songs – I wouldn’t have to specifically learn it and if I had an entire day to learn about 50 words, I think I could manage it. (Much as I hate to defend the contestants here, I'm wondering how specific the instructions they gave him were. I always thought you were meant to do a verse and a chorus whatever the circumstances, but either that's bollocks or the editing LIES because hardly anyone ever does. - Steve) Sharon and Louis tell Luke off as well. Good. Pull your socks up, little boy. Simon says Luke is too young. He is. However, Simon, you lowered the age limit and can therefore not ever use that as grounds to boot someone. Dannii says they asked too much of Luke in 24 hours. Which: no, Dannii. She says yes, as do Louis and Sharon. Simon says no because Luke is too young, and because he likes him. Luke is thrilled to get through and his mum seems lovely.

So, in the supposed 'best for last' episode, the only person worthy of any recognition was Annalisa. One whole talented person!

No more auditions! We see the judges throwing papers up in the air with excitement. Except they’re not wearing the same clothes they were for auditioning Luke, which is allegedly the last audition. This fucking show. We then get five minutes recapping and previewing, which I’m not going to talk about. This fucking show. Suffice to say, next week bootcamp and two episodes for the price of one. God help us all. (Aren't we supposed to know who's mentoring which category at this stage? Stupid show. - Steve)

In other news: we're branching out. The estimable Carrie is setting up a similar recap blog for Strictly Come Dancing, called, perhaps inevitably, Strictly Come Bitching., along with Steve, me and Georgi. Let more light-entertainment-based venom for you to enjoy. We spoil you.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Babies are the new dead parents

Audition Show 5: 15th September 2007

Last week: all of this happened. Joel's already recapped it; I see no reason for me to do it again. This week: finally that bloke from the trailers who accuses Louis of "talking stupid" is finally due to arrive on our screens, and some bloke who's clearly been rejected says that he deserves "a chance", which I'm sure will make Joel happy, because it's not like he's gone to great lengths to point out that your audition is your chance on numerous occasions prior to this. Titties! I mean, titles!
Fucking blogger ate all my comments so I might not be very funny this week. My funny is already spent, with nothing to show for it.-Joel

Time-lapse porn, including shots of smoke pumping out of what appears to be a power station. Interesting choice, stylistically speaking; a metaphor for this show being some kind of powerhouse for new talent, perhaps? Or symbolising that this show is really just a lot of hot air? You be the judge. A non green-screened Dermot has deigned to show up this week, and is standing outside with the rabble in Sheffield, for what is apparently the first time ever on this show. I'm excited; are you? Dermot asks if "the steel city" has the winner, and the crowd behind him go nuts in a very unflattering fashion. The auditions are taking place in the city centre, and Dermot claims that the whole city has turned up to welcome The X Factor. Cue shots of crowds waving banners, people leaning out of taxis waving X Factor-branded flags, etc. And really: that's just sad. Have some dignity, Sheffield, for all our sakes. Dermot runs through the categories, as though any one cares, and the judges. A brass band plays a song which the sheet music identifies as being called "The X Factor", although we only hear about two notes of it so I don't know if it's the theme tune, or indeed if any of them have a dead parent they'd like us to know about. Simon receives a small trophy of some kind, makes a crack into the microphone about how he now owns Sheffield, and is booed by the crowd. Heh.

Crowds surge into City Hall. Dannii, having her make-up done, is hoping the winner will walk through the door. First in to see the judges is 16-year-old Nathaniel (boo! Too old! Down with 16-year-olds! It's all about the 14- and 15-year-olds! Youth is a precious commodity! Being young is all that matters!), who claims to have "more vocal abilities than most other people." Either that, or more "focal" abilities; his diction's not great. Either way, it's pretty much a meaningless sentence. Nathaniel trots in to see the judges, and gets a sunny "g'day!" from Dannii. Nathaniel's a bit squirrelly and nervous, and Dannii advises him to take a deep breath. What happens next is kind of surreal: Nathaniel starts singing 'And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going' in a voice much deeper than his singing voice, and in a way that kind of doesn't match his mouth movements at all, leaving the impression of him having been badly overdubbed by someone else. It's kind of like he's been momentarily possessed by the spirit of a large black woman, with all the resultant comedy that would entail, him being a scrawny 16-year-old white boy and everything. It's not dreadful, but it's definitely a little incongrous, and not a little humorous. There are lots of reaction shots of Louis sucking his cheeks in (I can only assume they shoot a bunch of these at the start of the day for stock purposes, accompanied by lots of shots of Sharon goggling, Simon giving a WTF side-eye, and Dannii's face being as gloriously immobile as ever), so we know this is a "funny" audition. Nathaniel completely loses the tune at the end, and does weirdass movements with his hands, and giggles girlishly at the end. There's a stunned silence from the judges, before Louis - socially aware as ever - starts guffawing. Dannii asks Nathaniel how he thinks he did, the answer being "all right". Nathaniel wrings his hands as he says he wasn't sure what people wanted to hear. Awww. In a way, I sort of feel sorry for him. Not a lot, mind. Simon tells Nathaniel that he needs to change his record collection, because it sounded like he was trying to sound like Whitney or Jennifer Hudson. [I felt sorry for him. His voice is NICE, but he's got absolutely no control over it. A kind word, a suggestion of singing lessons, and sending him out to get hugged by Dermot would have been far more suitable than mockery. - Carrie] Nathaniel assures Simon that he was trying to sound like himself, and Simon reads my mind by describing the audition as sounding like Nathaniel was "possessed". Louis guffaws again. Vote: four nos for Nathaniel, and Girls Aloud's 'Sexy! No No No...' (heh) cues up on the soundtrack. I think this is going to lead into a montage of successful auditionees, don't you?

Parade of losers: a surgeon called Bongo [And you're really going to want your innards sliced up by this man. - Carrie] , an aging rocker called Steven singing 'Angels' wobbily, a brunette called Ashley in a newsboy cap who forgets what song she was going to sing, and when she eventually wish she hadn't. Losers, losers, losers. Simon strops out for a break. Rain! Surely this is somebody's cue to sing 'Umbrella'? [Ella, ella, ella. - Carrie] Next up is 24-year-old Katie from Skegness, who is five months' pregnant. Katie interviews that money is tight, which is clearly why she's going into such a stable career as the recording industry. The Spice Girls' 'Mama' plays on the soundtrack as Katie walks into her audition. Katie tells Sharon that her baby is due in November, which would be a tad problematic if she makes it to the live shows. Simon tries to work out the dates, and Katie concedes that her timing is not brilliant, but that it might be "the first child born on X Factor." Hopefully in the middle of a live rendition of 'Papa Don't Preach'. Katie sings 'There You'll Be' by Faith Hill, and her voice has quite a nice clarity to it, although her teeth are fucked. Simon stops her and says that he doesn't know what to make of her: her baby's due in the middle of the live shows, her voice is nice but her busted teeth give her a lisp. [The fuck-off big tongue stud doesn't help either. - Carrie] She backchats a bit, although she does it in an endearing [read 'incomprehensible attempt at a burn' - Carrie] way rather than a snotty way. Sharon asks Katie if she thinks she can cope, and Katie assures her she can. It's a yes from Sharon and Louis, but a no from Dannii who thinks Katie should come back next year post-childbirth, thereby cementing her role this year as the Common Sense Judge. Simon doesn't want to pass judgement because it's Katie's decision, so he gives her a yes. [And here again we see the utter madness of this show. No, Simon, it's YOUR decision. You're the one who votes them through. Remember? You, Louis, Sharon and Dannii sit in a row and decide who to send through, usually with little logic whatsoever based neither on the auditionee's voice nor their vocal potential. - Carrie] In a sequence whose connection to reality is in no way questionable, Katie celebrates outside while the judges wonder inside if they've made the right decision. Omimous music plays as Dermot's VO asks if Katie's dream is over before it's even begun. Which obviously is the cue for the ads.

Back from the break, and the show recaps what we just saw. Simon tells a producer that the decision on Katie should've been a no, with Dannii voicing her fears about the baby. Best bit of the show. Dannii basically explaining to the rest of them with diagrams and hand puppets what pregnancy and labour entail and why it would be a bad idea to let her through. 'You do have to think about the baby a little bit.' Genius.-Joel Simon goes out to speak to Katie, and essentially tell her (and her fella, Jason) that they made the wrong decision because of the baby, and that they've changed their minds. Katie takes it on the chin [Jason doesn't. He swears and slams doors. Maybe Katie should have wheeled out a domestic violence story instead? - Carrie], or so it seems: Simon goes back to the other judges and says how the stress that Katie would've been under during the live shows with a baby on the way at any minute would've been unbearable, and then we cut to a cheesed-off Katie saying that they all knew the situation when they said yes the first time, and how it's her decision and she's aware of the risks. And...really, when Simon Cowell's parental instincts are more responsible than yours, that's when maybe you might want to be worrying, just a little bit. Bye, Katie! Pop into Mothercare on the way home, eh?

28-year-old Steve had it all, but lost it: he used to be a member of BBMak. I'm not sure you can refer to a member of BBMak as having "had it all", but there you go. Steve has a two-week-old baby, thus proving that babies are the new dead parents, and BBMak's 'Back Here' plays on the soundtrack, possibly earning him a few PRS royalties, which must be handy. Louis does the entirely unprompted "do I know you from somewhere?" bit, trying not to look at the notes the producers gave him before Steve walked in, just so Steve can confirm that he was in a boyband for the narcoleptics in the audience who may have been asleep thirty seconds ago. Steve sings 'Isn't She Lovely', which sounds a bit Stevie Wonder-karaoke to my ears. Sharon was disappointed in his performance, but liked his voice. Dannii agrees. Steve claims that he's nervous, and I'm not sure how he plans to be any less nervous in front of an audience of approximately nine million viewers as opposed to...four people right there, but hey. Simon understands how Steve's feeling, because he knows what he feels like to have had it all and then lost it. Oh wait, I'm thinking of Donald Trump. Simon thinks it's tougher for someone to make a comeback than it is for someone just starting out, but says that Steve's voice was a bit of an impersonation, and what is it with the me-and-Simon mind meld this week? Yes from Louis, yes from Sharon, no from Dannii, I knew she was my favourite for a reason. Piss off, has-been.-Joel yes from Simon. Steve's through to boot camp, but Simon tells him to step it up.

Montage of successful auditionees. Raquel, in a lovely purple silk top, does the splits and sings 'Rescue Me'. She gets through. Darren sings 'If You're Not The One' and gets through. A girl in a yellow top called Abi has the largest family-slash-entourage in the world and sings 'Unchained Melody'. It's a no from Louis, but a yes from everyone else.

19-year-old student Andrew has a monobrow and a bleached Hoxton fin, and lists S Club 7 as his musical influence. This should be interesting. He sings 'Zipadeedoodah' (sp?) entirely tunelessly and waves his arms around a lot. Sharon says that he "definitely made the song [his] own." Simon calls the song "ridiculous". The judges vote, and it's a no for Andrew. 33-year-old mother of two Andrea chats to Dermot in the waiting room, this audition presumably having taken place on one of the few days that Dermot was not required for Big Brother's Little Brother. And wait for it - Andrea has a husband, WHO IS DEAD. Whee! I knew we couldn't get through an entire episode without that happening. I'm staring to wonder if the X in X Factor refers to the way that cartoon characters have crosses in their eyes instead of pupils WHEN THEY'RE DEAD. It would explain a lot. Andrea is wearing her husband's wedding ring around her neck (on a necklace, obviously; she doesn't have a pencil neck or anything) and is auditioning to show off the voice that he loved. Apparently she's not sung since Mark died nine months ago. Sharon asks Andrea to tell her something about herself, which gives Andrea a chance to mention her husband, WHO IS DEAD. Andrea sings 'Nessun Dorma' (I think; I really should know that, but I don't [Yes, it is. - Carrie] ), which is a song that just doesn't sound right being sung a capella. Simon compliments the quality of her voice, and also the sincerity. The judges gush about Andrea's performance, and Sharon thinks that Andrea's husband, WHO IS DEAD, would've heard her singing. It's four yeses for Andrea, who goes outside to hug her kids. The judges jet off to the next city, and continue to gush about Andrea. Those sequences are getting so boring. Please can we get someone with a proper classical training on the panel to give proper critique of coloratura and so on? Rather than the 'opera =good' we've been seeing this series.-Joel

Post-ads, Dermot welcomes us back to The X Factor, where the talent search continues. He doesn't mention the city, of course, because that would mean they couldn't keep generically using this shot for all the times he wasn't available. I bet Kate Thornton's pretty pissed off right now. We've "returned" to Birmingham, because obviously it makes sense from a production management point of view to return to cities you've already visited. This is not - I repeat NOT - just previously untelevised footage from the last time we saw them in Birmingham, and anyone who claims otherwise is a whore and a charlatan. Some bloke wibbles 'Sherry' by the Four Seasons in a falsetto, and gets through. Kidding! Of course he doesn't. Louis guffaws, as usual, because he's a bastard. A woman who loves performing bellows 'What's Up' by 4 Non Blondes, so badly that I almost couldn't tell what she was singing. A bearded man called Alex gets a line-and-a-half through 'Fly Me To The Moon' before stopping because he "didn't like [Simon's] reaction." Alex gathers that Simon isn't impressed. There are no flies on Alex, folks. Next up is bubbly Kimberley, who, when greeted by Dermot in the waiting room, grasps his hand rather awkwardly and doesn't let go, leaving him sort of semi-straddling her while he tries to sit down in the chair next to her. And really, in her position, who wouldn't do the same? Kimberley is 19, and wants to show everyone what real country singing is. Because all the best country singers come from Birmingham, obviously. Birmingham, Alabama, maybe. She high-fives Dermot and goes in for her audition. Sexually voracious Kimberley makes no attempt to hide her lust for Simon, which is a little terrifying. Simon asks her if she doesn't think Louis has a smouldering look. Kimberley says that Louis has a "different kind of smouldering look", presumably the type that is utterly absent. Unless she has some kind of thesaurus where "smouldering" is listed as a synonym for "gormless". Kimberley tells the judges that she lives in a pub with her parents, and adds "I'm not an alcoholic, but I do like a good drink." I'm always slightly wary of anyone who starts a sentence with "I'm not an alcoholic, but..." Kimberley starts singing 'Redneck Woman' in exactly the sort of way that she claimed she wasn't going to, I like her but that bugged me. Jeebus, if you think Gretchen Wilson is real country, there's no hope for you.-Joel and Simon asks her what her second song is. Kimberley clarifies that she is versatile, and doesn't just do country. Just as well, really, because I'm not sure the country music industry's that huge in the UK. Kimberley's second song is Maria McKee's 'Show Me Heaven', which she performs better by all accounts. Dannii compliments Kimberley's voice, but counters "you scare the life out of me." Kimberley's response? "Sorry! It's the Red Bull." Hee! I kind of love her, even though I know I shouldn't. Sharon loves her personalities, but trots out the old standby "we've got so many great people in your category". It's a yes from Sharon and Louis, and a no from Dannii, and the show blows all suspense by lining up 'Spinning Around' on the soundtrack. It's not so much a sad song, so we know Kimberley gets through. Simon tells Kimberley she might be "one of the most annoying contestants we've ever had". Oh come on, she's hardly Chico. Or Ray. Or Ashley. Or Tabby. Or...well, you get my point. It's a yes from Simon, and smutty hugs from Kimberley. Obligatory entirely spontaneous shot of Kimberley arriving home to tell the folks in t'pub that she got through, and also the camera crew that just happens to be there.

Theme from Terry and June, which accompanies this year's oldest auditionee: 84-year-old Dorothy. [But why Terry and June? Because June Whitfield is old? Because Terry Scott is DEAD? What, what WHAT? - Carrie] Everyone in Dorothy's family has been telling her "oh Grandma, you must enter The X Factor." Which probably means that her family don't have the most accurate grasp of their family tree, I'm guessing. Dorothy used to sing for the troops during the war, and everyone loved her, and she's giving it another go "in the last chapter of [her] life". Aww. I can't begrudge her that. Also waiting to audition is 67-year-old retired builder Eric. I've gotta say, if I had to guess which of these two was the elder one, it wouldn't have been Dorothy. She's looking good for 84. Eric isn't looking so good for 67. Sorry Eric. Anyway, to further contextualise the use of the music, Eric and Dorothy meet in the queue and hit it off. [Or! The researchers make them both sit on chairs that are clearly marked FOR RESEARCHERS ONLY and tell them to talk to each other, in a desperate attempt to create a backstory, as nobody cares about old people WITH DEAD SPOUSES. - Carrie] Awww. It's a November to December romance! Cue 'Love is in the Air'. Footage of auditions going well, including someone singing Maroon 5's 'This Love'. Sadly this person is not Eric, because that would've been awesome. It's a teenage boy, who gets a kiss blown from Dannii but who does not hug Dermot upon his exit. Boo! A girl sings Xtina's 'Hurt' in such a key that makes me think she'd be fucked royally when she got to the chorus, but we never hear that far. She gets through, anyway. Lots more yeses. Eric and Dorothy sing love songs to each other in the queue. [Entirely unprompted, obviously. - Carrie] A woman sings 'Amazing Grace' with her eyes shut the entire damn time. She gets through, and possibly sent to an optician. Eric offers to take Dorothy out for a meal next week. Dorothy isn't sure what her sons will think. Presumably if they're the same sons who call her "Grandma", they won't really understand anyway. A young boy wearing a bandana gets through and is so elated that he jumps through the doors. I have to say, I was really hoping for that to be an "other door" moment, but sadly it was not to be. The auditions seem to be taking place in some kind of shopping mall, as he runs out through the main doors and hug some girl who's standing outside.

Finally it's time for Eric and Dorothy to audition, and Eric's in first. Eric's asked if he's had a good day, and he says he's really enjoyed it: "I've been with a lady all afternoon." Dannii's eyes pop out on stalks. Heh. Eric sings 'What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For', and has a pretty good voice and is kind of a twinkle-toes. Sharon says he reminded her of Sunday night at the London Palladium, and took her back to her youth. Ahhh, the 1820s. A simpler time. Louis enjoyed it very much, and Simon considers him very stylish. It's a yes from "DM", and also from Sharon. It's a no from Louis, who liked Eric but doesn't see any point in putting him through. And if I may take a moment to address the utter idiocy of that, please: the hell? Louis has put through people much older and more infirm than Eric previously. If it's not that, and it's a stylistic issue, then I'm willing to bet that he's unlikely to find anyone notably better or different in Eric's age group, because they will generally be a product of their time and thus be singing that sort of song in that sort of style, and if they're so out of touch and pointless, what's the point of having no upper age limit in the first place? I mean, what kind of fuckery is this? Sorry, but given that Louis has put people through before who only sang with a heavy Spanish accent, and who uses the phrase "well, I was entertained" as some kind of ultimate get out clause to put through all kinds of retards, that was a really dickish move on his part. Simon calls him a grumpy sod [Hee! "Know-nothing fuckwit" would have been better, but I'll settle for that - Carrie] , and puts Eric through. Eric gets a congratulatory kiss from Dorothy outside, and she heads in for her audition. She chats about Eric with the judges, and says that Eric's offered to take her out for a meal next week. Simon's eyes go wide and he's all disbelieving and "no!", and hee! It's rare to see Simon acting this queeny when Ryan Seacrest isn't in the immediate vicinity, but it still amuses me all the same. I half expect him to invite Dorothy out for brunch the morning after to find out all the sordid details. They ask what Dorothy said and it turns out she said yes. "Why not?" she says. Why not indeed. Simon asks Dorothy how old she is and when Dorothy tells him she's 84, he's all "no!" again. Hee! At this stage he's a mani-pedi away from completely turning into Regina George. Dorothy refers to herself as Eric's "sugar mummy" and hee, again. I love Dorothy. Dorothy sings 'We'll Meet Again' [I refuse to believe they didn't make her sing this. "Hey, old lady! Sing a song from World War II! It'll be all nostalgic and aww and we can patronise you!" - Carrie], and it's not especially great, but it's serviceable enough and she gets a round of applause. Outside, Eric's saying it'd be nice if they both got through to boot camp. "It'd be nice to have a week with her." Ha! Old person sex, everyone - finally getting the airtime it deserves, and who would've through it would take The X Factor for that to happen? Dannii calls Dorothy's performance "faultless". Simon calls Dorothy a little minx, and she's all "Pardon? Oh yes! Yes, I can be naughty." And that just makes Simon cackle even more. It's a unanimous yes for Dorothy. Eric and Dorothy head off together, as Dermot VOs the question of whether their love will blossom at boot camp.

After the break, we've "returned" to Manchester. Well, see above. 42-year-old Thomas has already recorded his album in his home studio, and thinks he's "an extremely creative musical being [with] a natural talent for performing and making music." Anyone not see how this is going to go? Thomas goes into the judging room and tells the judges about his album (called It's Thomas) and the producers use up every last one of their pre-recorded judges' disbelieving reaction shots as Thomas elaborates that he's only played it to his family and he's been keeping it under wraps because he wants Simon to produce it. And...if you've already recorded it, wouldn't you be beyond the stage where you need a producer? Thomas sings 'All By Myself' tunelessly and soullessly. Simon informs him curtly that there will be no album release. Vote: it's a unanimous no for Thomas, who disagrees with the judges and says he'll be watching and is sure he'll see much worse than him on the show. Well, there's a compelling argument: "I'm not the shittest person you'll see." Thomas leaves, and bemoans the fact that he didn't get a chance (I'll leave that bit to Joel) and says that the judges will have to answer for themselves when they get to the gates of heaven. Oh, Thomas. Simon will be in hell, with me and Carrie and Joel. That much is clear. We'll have slumber parties and roast marshmallows, and it will be awesome. And we'll invite Dannii, but not Sharon and Louis.

Montage of people whinging in The Pod. A guy with an Afro who sounds like Vicky Pollard is in disbelief at his ouster. A fat girl cries and swears. A chap with a goatee claims that judges haven't earnt any respect from him (I bet they're ever so upset to hear that). A woman who wanted to give it a shot "for the over-25s", and I think she's safely on that side of the fence, yes. Shouting Asian guy. Curly-haired boy who hates Louis. Word, Curly.

Final contestant in Manchester: yep, it's the "you're talking stupid!" bloke. He's 67, he's a retired gardener, and his name's Johnny Rocko. He's versatile, he can do anything, and he's been doing pubs and clubs for years. He brags that he can do a two-and-a-half hour set, dancing around, "and not even breathe heavy". Gosh. He's a dead cert, don't you think? I mean, all those "still to come" trails painted him in ever such a flattering light. He says he'll make Louis Walsh kiss his feet, which: ew. I don't want Louis kissing any part of me, thanks. [I really thought he was going to say "kiss my arse", which was worse. - Carrie] Simon asks Johnny what he's going to sing. Johnny: "You know Elvis?" Simon: "Yeah, I know Elvis, yeah." Johnny: "You know Elvis?" Steve: "*facepalm*" [I actually laughed at this. Well done, show! - Carrie] Johnny sings 'Always On My Mind' in a terrifying way where the upper half of his face doesn't move at all, and his enunciation is all weird, and he sounds like Vic Reeves singing in the club style on Shooting Stars. Louis guffaws, quelle surprise. Louis calls him "a great entertainer, but a pub entertainer." Johnny scoffs. "I've been offered work in Ireland." (Simon: "Irish pubs.") "I've been offered work in Spain." (Simon: "Spanish pubs.") "I've been offered work in Majorca." (Katy: "Gardening work, I expect.") It's a no from Louis, and Johnny says "you're talkin' stupid!" Well, I didn't see that coming, did you? It's a unanimous no for Johnny. What I think may be the theme from The Godfather cues up (again, could be wrong; I'm culturally illiterate at the best of times) as Johnny tells Louis to remember his name: Johnny Rocko. Sharon: "Sounds like a hitman for the mafia." [Way to defuse a tense situation, Sharon, you stupid cow. - Carrie] Johnny starts, I think, talking in Italian, and is hopefully putting Louis under some sort of curse. A curse other than the eternal curse of having to wake up every day and realise you're Louis Walsh, I mean. Louis gapes. Johnny walks out, and Sharon tells Louis he messed with the wrong man. Simon: "He was giving you a death threat. That was a sign to the mafia, worldwide, to kill you." Team Mafia! Sharon and Simon wind Louis up about sleeping with the fishes, and waking up with a horse's head in his bed, etc etc etc. Echoing death threats from Johnny as we fade out. Dermot VOs that Louis leaves the auditions under a cloud, "but will he ever return?" Oh don't get my hopes up, O'Leary.

Next week: final auditions! [This whole stupid show is getting on my nerves. It's been ridiculously formulaic every week so far - bad auditions! Judges are despondent! One good person starts the ball rolling for lots of yeses! A dead relative is mentioned! A random sob-story without a deceased loved one! The last audition of the day is eventful! I feel like I've watched the same show five times now, and I'm fully expecting it to be exactly the same next week. - Carrie] The best voice of the whole competition [like THAT matters - Carrie] , and that long-promised sequence where Simon kicks Sharon and Louis out and Sharon walks into a door as she leaves. Karma 1, Osbourne 0.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

'He just wants to go home!'

Audition Show 4 - September 9th

We start with a recap of what happened last week. Fittingly, they neglect to show any of the talented people who got through, subjecting us instead to that stupid wailing woman and her ugly family, the Japanese girl who loved Simon, and that fat Welsh girl with the newsboy cap and the crying.

This week, it apparently gets tougher, scarier, and angrier than EVER before. Whatevs, O’Leary. Dermot goes on to tell us that it’s time to face the music – and, well, you’re stretching the word to breaking point there, dear. Dermot is actually in the crowd this week, rather than superimposed in front.

We are told there are four categories and four judges. Dannii is too fierce for this show. Louis looks like a twunt. We’re in Belfast so of course Louis is looking for some great Irish talent from Ireland where talent is from, which is Ireland, where talented Irish people who are Irish and talented and Irish come from. [To be sure. - Steve] The judges are greeted by some scary children riverdancing but in neon colour outfits rather than subdued blues and greens. It’s like if Sparkle Motion took up Irish dance. Without the Patrick Swayze as a paedo implications, I suppose. The mayor of Belfast (or just some dude in a big necklace who wandered in) calls Louis Louise and neglects to even mention Dannii. If I were Dannii, this is where I would cut a bitch. [I think he might have mentioned Dannii afterwards, as he was "welcoming Simon, Sharon and Louise back", rather than welcoming Dannii for her first visit, but of course we don't get to see that, because that would make sense. - Carrie.]

We get a parade of ‘my job, WHICH IS SHIT’ tales of woe – a plasterer, a sales assistant, and a café owner. This is by way of introduction to twins Michelle and Julie. They are 44, and look quite good for their age, but only because they’re so weird looking any crows feet they might have would be the last thing you’d notice. They’ve got this awful haircut – both of them, dyed a really harsh and unflattering black, heavy fringe, chin-length. It’s like they were going for sleek, Kym Ryder nee Marsh bobs but ended up with Ken Dodd. They sing at funerals. The undertakers have told them to go for the X Factor.

Simon is appalled. Dannii asks them, ‘what gives you the [growl and kitty claw motion]?’ They reply that they do graveside singing. The foley team have fun. Bells toll. A crow caws. They sing Sarah McLachlan’s ‘Angels’ and against all odds aren’t actually bad. They harmonise and make it into a folk song. Simon says he wants to go in the coffin and calls it ‘depressing’. Sharon says they have ‘mortuary face’. They all say no. Sharon wants to prebook them for her own funeral because she at least ‘know[s] what I’ll get’. Fair enough, I suppose. Leave it to the family and Kelly will be too busy taking crack with Amy Winehouse, Jack will be halfway up a rockface somewhere and Ozzy will get turned around and lock himself in the linen closet again. The Pomeranians would eat her corpse before Aimee got in from work. [By far the weirdest bit of this sequence was how Dannii kept saying "guys" and Simon kept correcting her: "girls", as though somehow he's the self-appointed guardian of gender-biased nouns. If that's the case, I hope he's finally grasped the use of adverbs this year, because if I hear him saying to anyone "you did brilliant", I may have a small homicidal rampage. - Steve]

Montage of shit people. Dannii makes a tongue out vomit face. A funny fatty with curly hair sings ‘Under the Bridge’ and then in the Booth Of Bitterness he says ‘I just don’t have the rock in me’. I lol.

A couple of rubbish boys called ‘East to West’ purport to be like Abba. One’s okay and one’s awful. When asked why he chose the awful one, the okay one says ‘because it’s a challenge’, which is funny but a) harsh on your friend and b) rather missing the point.

Montage of twatty dancing. A very fat woman will be as famous as Whitney. She screws up ‘Love Can Build a Bridge’ and then tells the Booth OF Bitterness that ‘they don’t like Whitney’. No dear. They don’t like you. Because you’re shit.

Simon is ‘depressed and fed up’ and Dermot tells us it was a disastrous day, and the judges want to go somewhere else. Louis says it was the worst day ever.


Dermot says ‘everyone is hoping to dance their way to the top’ and that hoping to ‘dance herself into the next round is 30-year-old dance teacher Shelley’ [30? That woman is 40 if she's a day. The face! - Carrie.] who says, ‘I’m a dancer and want to see if I’ve got anything else to offer’. I wonder if someone missed a memo about this being a singing competition. In fact, given what’s about to happen, I wonder if everyone missed a memo about this being a singing competition. Shelley comes in and greets the judges. She sings ‘Just A Little’ by Liberty X and dances about a chair while wearing a velour tracksuit. She can’t sing and she can’t particularly dance either, to be honest. [God alone knows what she teaches in her 'dance classes'. - Carrie.] She’s flexible, but so are lots of people. Popping your minky in my face in time to the music isn’t going to make me buy your records. It didn’t work for the Pussycat Dolls and it won’t work for you. After garnering the inevitable Pussycat Dolls comparison – i.e. as singers, they’re good dancers; and as dancers, they’re mediocre [and they all look at least 40 too - Steve] – Shelley is asked if she does topless dancing. She tells Sharon that indeed she does. ‘Good for you!’ cries Sharon. Then Simon says ‘now?’ and Shelley says ‘oh, no, not now.’ [And Louis says to Simon, 'I'm surprised you haven't met her.' - Carrie.] So I’m confused. And then she gets four yeses and I’m REALLY confused. She was terrible. She was very sweet. I liked her as a person. But she was shit. And not even in a Chico sort of way where some misguided morons will say ‘but it’s entertaining!’ She was just shit. [My notes for pretty much the entire first half of this episode consisted of "WTF?" over and over again. - Steve]

Of course, the yeses make everyone happy and suddenly there are lots of yeses. This is such bullshit editing. There are lots of awful people and then one good person turns it all around and it’s talent a-go-go. Either they’re simply lying with the editing or the producers drip-feed it shit shit shit shit good good good good. Either way, please don’t try and make me think that it’s the vagaries of fate playing with poor Simon and co, ITV. I’m not that stupid.

3 girls called Aphrodisiac go through, continuing the strain of surprisingly unshit girl groups. A chubby 14-year-old gay in a sparkly waistcoat and voice like Michael Ball goes through, continuing the strain of surprisingly good 14-year-old chubby gays in sparkly clothing. A mum-dad-and-daughter group called Trinity go through, for what I can only presume is the weirdness factor cos from what we saw they weren’t great. A Manchester girl called Kimberley sings ‘Ain’t No Mountain Enough’ pleasantly enough and goes through. I’d forgotten who she was while she was still on screen.

‘Thank You For Being A Friend,’ the Golden Girls theme plays. 70-year old shop worker Maria has been writing songs for 7 years. She looks bloody fantastic for 70. [She looks about the same age as Shelley. - Carrie.] She brings the lyrics to her song on a big sheet of paper attached to an A-frame, with a handle on the top like a mangle so she can wind them up and down. A sort of makeshit autocue. I did actually intend makeshift there, but the Freudian slip of ‘makeshit’ was too good to correct. The song is called ‘Wild and Sexy’ and involves Maria telling us that, ‘I feel wild and sexy when I sing a song’. She hasn’t strictly speaking sold any CDs but lots of people have them, because she gives them away. Louis says no, Sharon yes, Dannii yes – earning ‘Dannii, you are professional!’ from Maria, and Simon no. Simon is notably peturbed by all this. He seems to think it’s not appropriate for a 70-year-old to say ‘sexy’ and seems to be a bit worried about her mental state. Which, given the poor shuffling trolls with actual visible mental health problems they parade for the visit-to-Bedlam amusement of the country each week, seems a bit odd, as Maria is clearly quite together and just there for a bit of a laugh. Simon and Louis give her a hand outwith her lyrics thing. Simon says, ‘don’t steal the lyrics, Louis’. [Maria to write the winner's single, please. - Steve]

20 year old Sam is from Newcastle. [And you know he's going to go through, because the plinky piano music starts up as he gazes into the distance. Stupid formulaic show. - Carrie.] He says ‘performing takes the weight off my shoulders’ and I’m already thoroughly bored of him. Get a new motivation, boy, that one’s been done. He sings ‘Handbags and Gladrags’ and, much to my chagrin, can actually sing. Little bit of a rasp going on, hits the notes, all perfectly all right. Dannii goes a bit mental. She loves him a lot. He goes through and Simon says that Sam is just a ‘good, old-fashioned, good singer.’ Watch how quickly ‘old-fashioned’ will become a criticism when Simon doesn’t get the Young Boys group.

The competition has tickets to the X–factor live show. I actually shuddered at the concept.

Some girls sing ‘they can’t take away my dignity’, to which Scott and I respond in perfect sync, ‘You do that yourself!’

Housewife Alison has had vocal coaching for three years, lost a stone, had a makeover. etc, all in pursuit of the X-Factor. We see her doing warm-up exercises in the bathroom and so on and she seems a bit musical theatre perhaps but not that awful. Her vocal coach is with her. When asked why she’s there, she says she’s practised and worked and now wants to try for real. There’s no Sharon. She’ll have been off in America filming ‘America’s Got Talent’ because they fired Brandy because Brandy rear-ended someone on the freeway and killed them. I don’t think the show actually told us that though. Anyway. Alison sings ‘Beautiful’ by James Fucking Blunt. It’s…bizarre. She’s clapping her thighs to get the beat, but she’s singing much much too fast, and has lost her way completely. It’s like she’s in a competition to see who can sing the song the fastest. She’s also not hitting the notes. Simon tells the vocal coach ‘I think the word refund comes to mind!’ She tells the judges, ‘you’ve absolutely broken me’. It’s a little bit sad. After she’s gone, Simon says, ‘THAT was uncomfortable’. [It was sad. Her warm-up was good. Maybe she should just sing scales, not songs. - Carrie.]

There’s then a girl band – a girl band who are shit for once, after all the deceitful good girl bands. I couldn’t even tell what they sang, though I knew it. I finally worked out it was ‘I’ll Stand By You’ but that was only from the lyrics. The tune was...not good.

Simon says that ‘Birmingham hasn’t delivered so far’. 18-year-old shop boy Matthew thinks they need ‘an entertainer’ and ‘a showman’. I already hate him. [Me too! - Carrie.] [Me three! - Steve]He says that, ‘no disrespect’ but Shayne and Leona have ‘no charisma’. He does little impressions of them singing, which I would say actually is a bit disrespectful. He says he’s doing ‘a little collaboration’ and Simon’s like ‘it’s called a medley, you fucking moron’. He sings ‘I Want It That Way’ then ‘Lean On Me’ and then ‘Something Inside So Strong’. He stamps his foot with emotion on the last, so great an entertainer is he. His voice isn’t awful, but it’s not remotely noteworthy. Simon says, ‘you could either be great or you could be in Butlins, I haven’t decided’. HA! Dannii says that Matthew is like a one-man band with the cymbals on his knees and a drum on his back. Matthew says, ‘Yes!’ and Simon is like, ‘that wasn’t a compliment, you slack-jawed nincompoop’. Louis veritably screams, ‘NO!’ when asked if he wants to put Matthew through but Dannii and Simon say yes. Louis says that Matthew is basically arrogant and a bit shit. He’s right, but that’s normally right up Louis’s alley, so who knows what’s going on. [I hope Louis gets him at boot camp. - Steve]

We meet 23-year-old mother of three, Kelly. She says, ‘I’ll show Simon who’s the biggest and who’s the best and I will win this!’ and claims that she’s like Celine, Whitney and Mariah, giving herself 10/10 for vocals. She says that she may not have the looks but she has the voice. My sympathy, momentarily piqued by her ‘I’m well ugly, me’ shtick, will soon disappear. She sings ‘I Will Always Love You’ and at first she’s not awful – going for volume instead of quality but that’s hardly new in these shows. [But she's started at least a fifth too high, and as soon as she sings the first note I predict that she'll fuck up the chorus because she won't have the range... - Carrie.] Then she goes for the high note at ‘And Iiiiiiiii’ and it falls apart really badly. Really, really badly. She kind of chokes on the note. And then all the subsequent notes as well. She does at least realise that she was sucking. Simon says it sounded like a dog at the end and gives 2.5/10. [That was harsh. I think there's a decent voice in there somewhere, but she doesn't have any kind of ear. - Carrie.] She gets three polite noes, Simong being like, ‘thanks sweetheart, no. Bye bye’.

Outside, Kelly gets proper mardy. She claims that Simon isn’t giving anyone a chance, because he just wants to go home and go to the pub. She brings her dad in. He’s like ‘have you got a heart?’ and Simon’s all ‘yeah, but I’ve also got a brain, and my brain is telling me your daughter sucks badgers.’ So the dad also chimes in with ‘you just want go home!’ ‘You’re not giving anyone a chance!’ And again I have to explain to these beefwitted cretins that they have HAD a chance. Their AUDITION is their chance. And besides which, if Simon just wanted to go home he would have put your caterwauling sprog-dropping daughter through, thereby saving himself valuable minutes of backtalk from the pair of you, you dunderheaded lackwit. They finally fuck off. In the Booth Of Bitterness, she’s all ‘when I’m famous, Simon could have been earning a share of money from me. Think on that, Simon. Think on. Mmmhmm. Think on.’ Simon Cowell does not need a share of your future millions you ridiculous buffoon because a) there won’t be any because you have a shit voice and a worse attitude and b) he has enough money to set up his own dictatorship on a small island off the cost of Nicaragua with a private army and Paula Abdul as his very own Eva Peron.

We’re still in Birmingham. Apparently this is the first year 14 and 15-year-olds have been allowed to audition. That is brand new information! [Thank fuck they told me. - Carrie.] 15-year-old Dominic has about 17,000 family members. He will be singing ‘Mack the Knife’. Hate. HATE. He has a good voice though. Sharon does the normal thing of ‘ZOMG! No-one under the age of 60 has even HEARD of swing music! You’re incredible!’ They try and build tension except he’s so obviously through it doesn’t work. Stupid show. [Loved him. He was cute and had a lovely voice. And I didn't want to punch him while he was singing, like I would've if it had been Ray. - Carrie.]

Dermot says that ‘Dominic’s yes is the first of many’ – ‘that we’re barely going to show you!’ Scott chimes in. It’s true, of course. We see a couple of people sing a word or two, and lots just jump up and down in the Booth Of Joy. Of course, we could have seen them, but obviously people would rather see mardy cows shout at Simon than actual singers in a singing contest. [Anyone noticed the total lack of Dermot chatting to victims, sorry, auditionees this week? Could it be that he WASN'T FUCKING THERE? - Carrie.]

Finally, there is Natasha, a single mother who has no-one to look after her daughter Jasmine, so Jasmine has to come into the audition. What? Surely there’s someone she knows? [Given that she claimed lots of people told her to audition, you'd think one of them would have offered themselves up for childminding services. - Steve] And I’m fairly certain a runner could sit with the girl for the four minutes it would take for her to see the judges. But anyhoo, as we shall see, Jasmine is integral to the audition. Asked why she’s auditioning, she says she has been through a lot and put her daughter through a lot, and wants Jasmine to see her mum achieve something. [At this point, the boy and I began to place bets on her tale of woe. I went for the domestic violence forcing her to become a SINGLE MOTHER OMGZ. - Carrie.]

She left a violent relationship – in which a weapon was used that could have cost her her life. [Yay! - Carrie.] She finally got out and moved away from home and family to start afresh. Which, yes, that’s brilliant. To have the strength to get out of a situation like that is admirable, as is trying to do something for your daughter. But this show is so fucking by-numbers now, it just comes across as, ‘my relationship, WHICH WAS VIOLENT’, and that’s pretty shitty. That twat last week was all, ‘my mum, WHO IS SINGLE’ and this beats that, but I’m afraid it doesn’t beat ‘I almost died’ or ‘my dad, WHO IS DEAD’. I wonder if there’s a statute of limitations on these things? I find it all so fucking distasteful. I mean, my dad’s dead. He died when I was 14. I hate the fact that I never really got to know him as an adult. It’s totally unfair that he died so young. But I don’t try and use it as motivation to make people vote for me on reality shows. And I blame the producers more than the contestants, because they’re so desperately afraid that people will see through the shower of shit that is the X-Factor that they have to find some peg to hang people’s sympathy on. Even if it is ‘my mum, WHO IS SINGLE’. Gross and inappropriate and the absolute worst aspect of this show and indeed all shows of its ilk, now.

Anyway! Natasha sings ‘Unbreak My Heart’ and isn’t actually that good. She hits the notes but they’re not the right ones. I swear that wasn’t the right melody. [Also, I swear that all the vibrato made it sound like she was singing "uncry these terriers" at one point. She must get massive hairballs in her tearducts. - Steve] She does actually have quite an expressive voice though, and puts some emotion into it and god knows that’s preferable to whatsherface from Manchester up the page who was about as memorable as a supermarket carrot cake. Quite nice and you’ll enjoy it when it’s there, but you don’t remember it and there’s another 40 exactly the same where it came from. Sharon says Natasha has a lot of passion but isn’t the best the judges have seen.

Dannii wants her to sing something happy. Louis says she has a good voice, better than she thinks. Cutely, Jasmine, who has been waiting behind the table with the judges, gets asked her opinion. She says yes. [I really like Simon at this point. I don't think he's a naturally paternal type, but he tries to be nice to the little girl. - Carrie.] Sharon says yes because Natasha hasn’t had many breaks in life. Simon says ‘it’s five yeses’ and Natasha is through.

Still to come next week, various shit. Including, once again, Simon being unsure they made the right decision about something. They’re doing that so often now. ‘My decision, WHICH WAS WRONG’. It’s so over.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Nice guys finish last

Audition Show 3 - 1st September 2007

Clearly I have displeased someone very important. Joel's pleading technical difficulties, Steve has a Very Important Job (or, y'know, geekfests to go to) (yeah, sorry about that. I was too busy dancing in a basement in King's Cross and then stalking Adrian Pasdar. I'll make sure you're suitably rewarded, don't worry.-Steve) (Forgive me! Computer death. And it's also taken me about 20 minutes to log in to blogger. Maybe the universe doesn't want me watching X Factor anymore.-Joel) (Yeah, you wish. - Carrie) and I'm left with the job of recapping, and not a drop of alcohol has passed my lips.

Scary deep-voiced male voiceover declares: "It's the most talked about show on television!" Montage of screaming, cheering, swearing and very little singing.

"Who will rise?" Snigger. "Who will fall?" Oh holy fuck, someone is going to sing Puff the Magic Dragon. "It's time to face the music!" If only this show was anything to do with music, then I might be able to understand it more.

Cue credits.

Lulu's playing in the background (not Louis Walsh, obviously, it's Shout). Dermot's in the same light-blue shirt he wore last week, but apparently now he's in Glasgow. You can tell because there are bagpipers. We're reminded that the rules have been changed this year, with two groups of young people, one group of old people, and one group for groups.

Speaking of rule changes, we're also reminded that we have four judges, who are soaking up the atmosphere in what I assume is the town centre. Simon is doing this by sitting on what looks like a throne and looking physically pained at the sound of bagpipes. He dons a Bay City Rollers scarf, and apologises for the McDonald Brothers. Not to them - for them. "I want to formally apologise for the McDonald Brothers representing you last year," he quips, and is booed for his trouble. Dannii is smirking. Don't tell me she watched this shite last year.

Colin is 43, and is a gas services engineer, I think. I'm not too hot on the Scottish accent. He has put money on himself to win the competition. (Only £1, though. I think he really ought to have wagered more than that if he wanted people to be impressed by his confidence.-Steve) Louis is heading up the panel today and asking all the tricky questions, like "Are you good enough to win the competition?" Colin takes his shoes off, ready to "sing and perform". He does this by destroying the Sweet's Blockbuster in fearsome style. Naturally, Louis begins laughing. Everyone votes no. Colin tries to leave the room, but chooses the wrong door. Simon looks like he might cry. (Just to let you know, "other door" is something that they lifted from the most recent season of American Idol. It was funnier the first time; less so now.-Steve)

Michael describes himself in one word as "good". He's blinged up and sings a tuneless The Wonder Of You. He also tries to leave the room through the wrong door. The next one is a Wham! wannabe, complete with white tailored jacket, vamping up The Edge of Heaven, and Dannii, with glacier-like poise, tells him: "I found everything about that audition very annoying." He looks heartbroken. And also tries to leave the room through the wrong door.

A montage of rejections. And people leaving the room through the wrong door.

Alan's dream is to have his "name up in headlights." Or he may have said "headlines", but "headlights" is funnier. (He definitely said 'headlights', the loon.-Steve) "Frank Sinatra, Elvis, me." Louis' jaw drops, in entirely unrehearsed fashion. Alan's choice of repertoire is somewhat peculiar for someone who wants to emulate the greats and emit star quality - That's My Goal. It's a no. And an attempted exit through the wrong door.

Melancholy piano music introduces Dermot's chat with 18-year-old shop assistant Leon, who wants to make his single-parent mum proud. That won't cut it on this show, Leon! Yes, of course you love your mum and she's done a magnificent job with you, you seem a lovely lad with an interestingly fashionable haircut, but this series of the X-Factor wants hideous sob stories of tragic lives. (He had horrible heroin chic red eyes, surely he could have been like 'my me, WHO IS A HEROIN ADDICT'.-Joel)(Seriously. My mum WHO IS SINGLE? That's a pathetic attempt to gain sympathy. Even the Plinky Piano of World-Weariness was wondering why it had suddenly been cued.-Steve) He sings Home by Michael Buble, which Louis welcomes with the words, "Great! We love that song." Can't say I'd ever heard it before, Louis, but whatevs. Leon is cute, he has a nice quality to his voice, but his pitching is iffy. (And his phrasing was poor too.-Steve) The judges rhapsodise, and the original Buble track plays in the background, approaching a key change, so you know it's going to be four yeses. Indeed it is, and Leon bursts into tears. Sharon asks him who he came to the audition with, and fusses over him when he replies he's by himself. He leaves the room (through the right door), but there's no Dermot hug waiting for him. Travesty. Instead, he rings his mum on the speakerphone to break the news, and she screams very loudly, possibly at the horror that is going to befall her son as he sells his soul to the devil throughout this audition process and the live shows, should he progress.

Still to come - lots of crying. Marvellous.

Welcome back, and we're on the road to Cardiff. Weren't we here last week? Sharon's late, so Dannii, Louis and Simon begin the auditions by themselves. Primary-school teacher Beverley is from Luton, so why she's auditioning in Cardiff is beyond me. And as we've already seen cheering kiddies in the montages, I'm guessing she'll go through. She seems like a nice lady, who sometimes sings the register with her pupils. Simon patronises her with a "Good for you" when she tells him what she does for a living. She churns out a decentish R-E-S-P-E-C-T, which would wow any karaoke night, but I can't help comparing her to (the also Luton-dwelling) Brenda. Dannii loves her; Louis thinks she's a backing singer; Simon says: "The one in the middle doesn't have a clue what he's talking about." With Simon proclaiming her to be the best audition this season, she gets three yeses in the end, and she's through. Shocker. Bring on the screaming kiddies! (If that was the best audition this season, we're in serious trouble. I liked Beverley and wanted her to get through, but she was far too yelly for my tastes.-Steve)(Stop shouting, Beverley.-Joel)

Sharon finally turns up, and there's a montage of people being put through and clapping themselves and leaping about. 14-year-old Matthew sings Nessun Dorma. Bloody hell. He's really good - a gorgeous tenor voice that deserves better than this programme. (He was so sweet. Little sparkly opera gay.-Joel) An Italian chap with horrendous cod vibrato wants to sing the "loveliest sweet song in the world", It's Now or Never, and for some reason he gets four yeses. Sigh.

49-year-old smily Julie is from South Wales and loves singing. She keeps scrunching up her nose and drawing stars in the air, which probably explains why they're playing the theme tune to Bewitched as her background music. She gives a quick example of what she does for a living - demonstrating products at the supermarket (Oh! I tuned out for a second and came back to see her naming all the flavours of Pringles. It makes sense now.-Joel) - and then breaks into a version of Let There Be Love. Louis claims she murdered the song, which isn't true. It was tuneful, but strange. Simon is right when he says it is somewhat robotic. Julie tries to sing another snippet, but she's stopped, and she takes the utter rejection gracefully, smiling on her way out. (This was a very odd scene - they kept cutting to stock footage of the judges with their jaws dropping, when Julie wasn't really that bad. Certainly no worse than some other people they've put through. It bothers me when they try to make average auditions look like they were worse than they actually were; if we're lacking any standouts good or bad this year, the live shows are going to su-huuuuck.-Steve)(She was fine. Weird rictus grin, but vocally okay. Stupid fucking show.-Joel)

Oh, did you know that the bottom age limit has been lowered now? Yes, of course you did, but just in case you're a fool with no short-term memory, this show will remind you again. Little Vivian wants to be like Shirley Bassey. Goodness. She's slathered in shiny eyeshadow. This is a fag-hag in the making, I think. The judges beam at her as she skips in and does a little dance of excitement on the X-spot, and tells them of her ambition to be like La Bassey. The editing here sucks, seriously. She sings Diamonds Are Forever - which is a hell of a song for anyone to sing, let alone a 14-year-old - and Sharon looks like she's going to cry with faux-maternal pride. "You're a funny little thing, aren't you?" says Simon. Sharon tells her that she doesn't think she's ready for the X-Factor, and Vivian bursts into tears. Excellent. THIS is why they shouldn't let children into this competition. Dannii and Louis both tell her she's not ready, and Simon says that she has a nice voice but little control at the moment. Vivian begs the judges to put her through. Sharon says yes; Dannii says no; Louis says yes; Simon says no. I think that had Louis said no, Simon would have said yes, but this kid is just a child and the competition will destroy her, if her reaction to even slightly negative comments is anything to go by. She wails to her family, "They were so mean!" Which they weren't. But if you're 14, you're bound to take rejection like that. And Simon concurs with this totally obvious point: "This is when I think we've made the wrong decision to lower the age range." Duh. (Her voice was MUCH better than I expected, but her Welsh accent was too strong when she sang. At least the judges were nice enough not to say 'you're too fat and ugly to win this show', which was the basic fact of the matter.-Joel) (*cough* McManus *cough*. - Carrie)

Still to come - suggestive comments, skipping and sobbing.

WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON? Dermot in the same light-blue shirt, but now he reckons he's in Birmingham. Continuity - que? (I swear that shot is blue-screened. Dermot looks like he's about six miles away from the "crowd" "behind" him.-Steve)

We recap all the terrible auditions we've seen so far, including the RUDEST AUDITIONEE IN THE WHOLE WORLD EVAH!!!!111one!!11!

Japanese Toshko has travelled all the way to the UK to meet Simon. She is a dinky little thing who cannot speak much English (Sharon can't even understand what her name is), but she tells Cowell where she's from, and then adds: "And I like you. Very much. And I came to here to meet you and I'm glad to meet you." Oh, bless her. Simon smiles uncertainly. Sharon asks: "Is Simon well known in Tokyo?" Toshko says that he is, and Sharon invites her to walk up to the panel to meet him. Louis makes stupid comments about them making a nice couple and there being chemistry, which Simon wisely ignores. Instead, he gives her a chivalrous peck on the cheek, gives her a hug and tells her that she is very pretty. (Awwww.-Steve) Then it is time for the audition, a version of My Way, and of course it's abysmal - feeble and with the language barrier preventing any kind of diction. (She sings like Cartman. Heee!-Steve) Simon does, at least, try to hide his smile; Louis doesn't bother; and Dannii beams supportively. They allow her to sing an entire verse without interruption, she ends by thanking them for listening, they applaud and thank her, and I guess she's got all she travelled for. Simon tells her that she has a sweet voice and is very cute, and that he might have to take her home with him. There's much laughter all round, and the poor girl blushes. Louis says yes, Dannii says yes, Simon says no because she was too quiet, and Sharon says no because she thinks that she and Simon should be kept apart. They all thank her again, and Simon escorts her out with an arm round her shoulder, and kisses her goodbye. She's delighted, and that's a lovely little interlude, if rather pointless. (I think she was taking the piss. She was like a Japanese girl I vaguely know who plays up to ' speak very good English' and then cackles and chats away to you in perfect English like a native Londoner.-Joel)

Montage of shit auditions, including the galloping man who sings Puff the Magic Dragon, but as it's only a snippet and we've already seen it in an earlier montage, it's rather redundant. I am rather taken with Danny who I suspect has a great and abiding love for N*Sync (who doesn't?-Steve), and so it proves with his somewhat camped-up version of Pop!, but he's still not very good.

Sharon reckons the show has the capability to change people's lives for the better, and that it has done, and will continue to do so. In that case, I'm predicting the next auditionee, shop assistant Richard, will be going through. He has the customary chat with Dermot (now in navy blue shirt and tie), describing how he has hated all his previous jobs. Join the club, sonny. He is quite cute, albeit with silly fluffy facial hair. He sings Ain't No Sunshine, and it's a fair stab at it - rather breathy, no power to speak of, but it's tuneful, at least. Simon says that Richard reminds him of when he first met Will Young - that wasn't an obvious comparison to make at all, was it? Louis interrupts with, "But he's more sincere, Simon. He's better looking and he's more sincere." (No on both counts. Shut up, Louis.-Steve) Dannii criticises his singing technique and suggests he gets some lessons. Sharon says that his voice is rather breathy (for fuck's sake, now I'm thinking the same thoughts as Sharon Osbourne?) and likens it to a dirty phone call. Richard asks: "But is it a good dirty phone call?" She replies: "All dirty phone calls are good." Ew. Simon asks for the judges' votes, and S Club's Never Had A Dream Come True starts up in the background. Hmm, wonder what way this will go, then. Sharon says no, Dannii says yes, Louis says yes, and Simon says it's an easy decision - yes. Richard runs out to hug his mum. Aw. Dermot labours the point conveyed by the music - "Richard's dream of becoming a singer is starting to come true." (Best eye-candy so far. Voice? Meh.-Joel)

Montage of other people talking about their dreams coming true, none of whom we have seen singing. Richard thinks his life will change now.

Still to come - a crying woman with much anger directed at Simon.

Dermot welcomes us back, and he's now in a denimy-blue shirt with epaulettes. No idea where he is now, and he doesn't tell us. Instead, we're looking at footage of truly awful groups. Simon wants to find the next Spice Girls, and Dermot (now in white shirt and yellow tie) thinks he might have done already, in the shape of Fallen Angels. Incidentally, Dermot's whispering voice as he stands outside the audition room is really quite sexy. He holds the door open for this four-piece girl group, who are all hair extensions and quirky neon pink accessories, and they bounce in and begin their audition en route to the stage - part pseudo-rap, and then breaking into harmonies, shouting about how they are a New Girl Group and Great and so on. (Best entrance since Addictiv Ladies.-Steve) The panel look bemused, but in a good way. Simon applauds, then Louis asks them to sing properly. They turn in a version of McFly's Obviously, which is OK, but I don't think a great deal of the originality of the harmonies, which seem to be a third apart all the time, nor with the intermittent whooping. Still, nit-picking - I'm sure the MD on the live shows will come up with a host of truly terrific arrangements with many exciting key changes, because they're bound to go through. Dannii thinks their harmonies are great. ("Yurrr hurrrmonies are graysh. Would you like a thruuugh furr yurr caaarch?"-Steve) What? Everyone says yes, and there is screaming and jumping on Dermot, who sustains a knee in the groin and collapses. (Any volunteers to kiss it better form an orderly queue behind me.-Steve)

Oh, we're still in Birmingham. More good auditions, one with a boy who sings with his eyes closed. Dannii says yes, Louis says yes, and Simon tells him, "You're through with three yeses", with his intonation suggesting that's the full sweep. So is Sharon not there, then? Come on, people, get with the continuity. A little girl called China sings Songbird, and she's got a really nice voice. Not a great deal of stage presence, due to the fact that she's a gangly awkward child, but she's through none the less.

Dermot voiceovers that as the day in Birmingham draws to a close, Sharon has to leave early for work commitments in Los Angeles. So that'll be where she was when eyes-closed boy was singing, then. Except Dermot is maintaining that Simon, Louis and Dannii are alone only for the final audition. *stabs self in ears with frustration* The last audition of the day is with It's About Time, a "modern-day Abba", made up of two sisters and their husbands. They're looking forward to winning the X-Factor and changing their lives by buying their mum a house next door to Marti Pellow, and they reckon they formed the group purely for this show. They sing We Built This City On Rock'n'Roll in bizarre belty voices, albeit in harmony. Simon stops them, and advises them to stick to carol singing. The older sister tells him they just need the right direction, setting Cowell up admirably for the riposte: "It's over there - the door. It was all wrong, the image, the lack of charisma, it was boring." The older sister gets all tearful and stroppy, saying: "We've actually sung on the NEC stage, and they loved us." Quite rightly, Simon replies: "So what? They're not sitting here." The whole group begin shouting about "all the rubbish that have gone through", and that they're good enough to win the whole show, with one of the husbands saying entirely seriously, "We are [good enough to win the whole show]. I'll buy you a drink if we don't." Simon rolls his eyes, Louis chuckles like the moronic leprechaun he is. The older sister continues her teary tirade: "I can't walk out that door and tell everyone we didn't get through." Um, why exactly? This is worse than little Vivian earlier. And these are grown-ups. Dannii has her head in her hands, hoping the whole horrible scene will disappear. Simon tells them his answer is no. The older sister sobs some more, whining "Please" like some recalcitrant toddler demanding sweets in Tesco. Louis says yes, because he's an easily-manipulated idiot. It's down to Dannii, and, because she has ears and a brain between those ears and must surely realise that these people would be nightmares to work with, she says no. (Also, that's the first time I've heard a judge say "the standard is so high this year" and actually agreed. W4 and Fallen Angels would wipe the floor with this lot, to name two off the top of my head.-Steve) The older sister snivels: "Simon, I used to think you were such a wonderful man. I've watched you, and I've admired you, and I've wanted you to tell me the truth." Impressively patiently, he mellows his tone to respond: "I did tell you the truth, sweetheart, it's a no." She staggers forward to weep over the judges and the judging desk. Simon walks out; Dannii is admirably nice to them. I'm bored of these people now.

Coming soon - dramatic lighting, Simon evicting Louis and Sharon from the judging panel (presumably and unfortunately not for ever), strange falsettos, a man telling Louis, "You're talking stupid." Looking forward to that? I know I am.