Saturday, August 30, 2008

A billion per cent OH NOEZ

Evening, bitches. Well, this week has been a very exciting one in X-Factor land - so much so that even my dad, not a man known for giving a toss about television in the slightest, demanded of me that I explain the casual lies that go to create everyone's favourite talent contest.

Obviously I had no answers. I could have toed the Cowell line of "This is a REAL show, warts and all" or the vaguely more realistic press office comment of "The editing may have been flawed" (ya think? What a turn-up for the books THAT would be), but frankly, I've not a clue what goes on in these people's minds. Like Lindsay Lohan's best friend in Just My Luck, "I'm just here to observe and mock."

And with that, on with the mockery.

Previously! Rachel and teh drugz! Foster boy! Big-mouth girl! Tonight! The contestants fight back! Oh, hooray - a montage of mentally ill people "standing up" to the judges. Oh, and a classic Cheryl - "I thought we were going to have a scrap." I don't fancy the contestant's chances.

Dermot welcomes us to London. We know it is London because we see a montage of Tower Bridge, a red bus, the Houses of Parliament, the River Thames, the Millennium Dome. We then see him standing on a box, short-arse that he is, in front of a gazillion crazies who claim to have the X-factor. His shirt is straining at the bosom, a problem with which I sympathise, but he really needs to sort out his stylist. Montage of the judges, but we already know who they are and the kind of things they say, so I shan't bother recapping that.

80-year-old Cyril feels half his age, which is "a beautiful feeling". He tells Dermot that he has a feeling he can win the competition, because he has always Had A Dream, and believes that someday it will come. Oh, Cyril. Cheryl smiles at him benignly, but he doesn't seem to understand her accent. He sings Hey Good Looking with no apparent regard for tempo, and with a terrifying mid-distance glazed stare. The judges applaud. Louis tells him he's a born showman. Everyone laughs. It's all very good-natured. Four yeses, and Cyril is through. [I bet we never see him again, though. - Steve]

Cue montage of people who are good. Ooh, pretty boy. Dannii and Cheryl are quite taken. But we don't get to see much of him, because they wheel on a girl band, Just Those Girls, who sing Fat-Bottomed Girls. "What would you do with them?" asks Simon. "I'd restyle them," says Louis, to much horror and hilarity. They're through. 16-year-old schoolgirl Rachel has a huge voice, and Simon is stunned, and interrupts her to tell her she's very good.

I'm srsly tempted to audition next year just so that Dermot will kiss me.

Crashing on, then. Guylene is a waitress and wants to be like Celine Dion, but sounds a bit like a ventriloquist singing through their puppet. Cheryl raises her mug to hide her grin. [Bless Cheryl, I do love the many ways in which she tries not to let the contestants see she's laughing at them. - Steve] Nobody stops the poor deluded woman, letting her carry on to the end, at which point they laugh. "My Heart Will Go On and On and On," says Louis. Cheryl looks really upset when she says no to putting her through. Background music is the break in Dion's Think Twice where she shouts, "No, no, no, no!" Hee. Dermot does empathising.

Still to come - more awful people, one of whom scares Cheryl.

Dermot is now "in" "Manchester". I cannot be bothered to point out the continuity and editing problems here, so let's gloss over it. Simon says, "Historically, the North used to be better, then London got it together with Leona," which makes me simultaneously laugh and cringe for poor old London-born Steve Brookstein, who has been wiped out of history most effectively. [Also, Louis is looking for people of the same standard of Leona Shayne, whoever she is. - Steve]

Diana is 16 and from Blackburn. She loves to sing. She wants this more than anything, because it is her future. I'm a bit scared for Diana. Her idols are Damien Rice, the Beatles - "real music!" interjects Louis - and she sings a Damien Rice song. "I know it!" exclaims Louis, but then he would, because Damien Rice is FROM IRELAND. I don't recognise this song or indeed any of the words she's singing, but hey, that never stopped Ray or Leon. Dannii tells her to improve her diction. Simon tells her that she's one of his favourites today - "in terms of relevance...I loved it." Four yeses for Diana. [I honestly thought she was going to be shit from the buildup to her intro. Nice bit of misdirection by the editors, there. - Steve] [She was a bit all over the shop, but there was a nice voice under there somewhere and she's sweet - Rad]

Colin is a 59-year-old welder from Worksop. "Why should I be nervous?" he asks. Um, the reasons you just said? He is working on a film called The Life of Colin. About him. ZOMG. He bills himself as a singer and entertainer, and tells the judges about his film, on which he sings the soundtrack. Simon looks a little bit appalled. Louis has his usual bemused/amused face on. When Colin sings, do you think it's good, readers, or do you think it's in fact abysmal? No, go on, guess. Four noes, and Simon bids him farewell with, "At least you've got the film."

Montage of weirdness - old man brings the ladies flowers; lady brings in her dog, which Cheryl cuddles rather than listening to the dreadful singing, and which she regrets afterwards when the dog leaves a smelly dribbly residue on the desk; lady brings in good luck cards, which have pictures of Simon in - she is a dinner lady, by the way, like Niki, and she is wearing a glam black cocktail dress, the effect of which is ruined by the greying bra underneath it. She's dreadful, and possibly drunk, and gets dragged away by security. [Would've been a different story if she'd had a dad WHO IS DEAD though. - Steve] Man brings in a bizarre sculpture of Simon. Why? Why would someone do this? [I was very impressed at Simon's composure there. I would have run screaming from the room and demanded several restraining orders before returning - Rad]

Scott, 19, from Manchester, is a Bluecoat, which Louis will no doubt throw back in his face at some point should he get through. He does some acting when Dermot comes over and "introduces" "himself", which makes it look even more staged than usual. Manly hand-clasps, and Scott is sent into the judges' lair. "Has anyone ever come from Pontins or Butlins?" asks Simon. "Shane Richie," says Scott. Ha. He sings You'll Never Walk Alone. Cue "musical theatre" comments. Cheryl is pleasantly surprised; Louis thought it was old-fashioned. "What do you want, a hip-hop version of it?" asks Simon. "That's like saying a banana tastes like a banana." Dannii wants to restyle him. Simon has decided that he likes him, and then proceeds to bicker with Louis in a truly unprofessional way [And also: my, how the tables have turned, considering Simon was always the one bickering at Louis for being old fashioned and telling contestants they needed to be contemporary. I blame Ray - Rad]. Four yeses.

Still to come - brilliant "horrified" faces from Cheryl. [I really need to learn how to make animated gifs from this show. - Steve]

Dermot is still in Manchester. Twin sisters Francine and Nicola are "Francine and Nicola", which I'm sure you'll agreed is inspired. They claim to be "the same person", and want to be "multi world-wide selling superstars." Louis asks them if they're sisters. Imbecile. They sing, and it's not bad once they get into it. They need to have someone help them with arrangements and harmonies, which clearly they won't get on The X-Factor, but they have powerful voices. Cheryl likes that they're twins, and says there aren't any duos out there at the moment. Thank fuck. Louis likes them. Simon is on a banana trail this evening, and likens their personalities to said fruit. [Seriously, is this show sponsored by the British Banana Council or something? If so, at least give us some gratuitous softcore shots of Dermot peeling and biting into one. - Steve] Four yeses.

Stuart, 29, is a soldier in the British Army. Simon says that he sings like a robot. Cheryl enjoyed it. Everyone else liked it too. Simon says 35-year-old property developer Sondelle looks like she's in a cornflakes commercial. "Your comments just get more and more confusing," sniffs Cheryl. Level 7 are a mad song-and-dance duo. Simon calls them annoying. Cheryl tells him, "You're acting very strange today", and does a nyah-nyah noise then blows a raspberry at him. I love Cheryl.

20-year-old Laura seems to have stolen Amy Winehouse's wig. She is a strange orange colour, and has a sore throat from overpractice. Music is the only thing she's ever wanted to do. (Dermot has a different shirt on now, by the way.) She sings Jocelyn Brown's Somebody Else's Guy, prefacing it with all kinds of apologies for being dreadful due to her poorliness. Except she's not dreadful, she's pretty damn good, despite a really irritating habit of bending over while she's singing and scrunching up her face. Simon thinks she's incredible and adores her; Cheryl thinks she's got a fantastic voice; Dannii loves her; Louis thinks she's potentially very good "but you need a lot of work", the miserable old git. Four yeses, with increasing degrees of intensity ("one billion per cent" from Simon, in fact). [I loved the fact that whilst the other three were playing a game of ridiculous percentages all through this show, Dannii just said yes. Clearly she is too classy for this show. Or else lacking in humour. - Rad]

Another break. Yawn.

Holy mother of God. Sue is 44, Jason is 22; they are workmates, and they go by the name Guilty Pleasure. I really don't know how to describe them. He looks like a cross between a fat, deranged Gok Wan and Kat off Big Brother; she looks a downtrodden EastEnders extra. They think they can win the show, and can be like Kylie and Robbie Williams. They sing Unbreak My Heart, but don't seem to be singing it in any key known to humankind, going so high that Jason has to stop. Simon speaks the truth, and Jason declares it "upsetting". Four noes.

Dollymix sing I Love Rock and Roll while wearing Primark polka-dot basques, blue eyeliner and stepping unconvincingly from side to side. Simon decries their lack of energy and charisma; Louis advises them to get a singer. Olweleng thinks he could be as big as R Kelly. He emotes, but not in tune. A neon-tutu-clad girl group 4Fit sing a unison arrangement of Fame, with accompanying arm-lifts on the title word.

Ariel from West Yorkshire is introduced to the strains of Kate Bush's Baboushka. She's a "holistic vocal coach", and has black and bleached dreadlocks. I'm guessing Ariel isn't her real name, either. She does a boxing-style warm-up, along with some meditation, and she intends to "own the space". She walks in, and Cheryl definitely mutters, "Oh, no." She's not wrong - Ariel storms up to the table and tears off her audition number, declaring, "I am NOT a number, I'm a human being." Simon looks stunned. Dannii looks as gorgeously immobile as ever. "I'm a generalist, not a specialist!" declares Ariel. Simon asks her to explain what the fuck a holistic vocal coach is, and then asks for examples of the famous people she has worked with; she names Matt Tuck from Bullet For My Valentine, but it seems the judges aren't huge fans of metal [And also: 'worked with' him, or 'stalked' him? - Rad]. Cheryl asks her to stand on the red X, which she does with poor grace, a stamp and a big hard-done-by sigh. "Is there a problem with that, Ariel?" she asks, all steel. "No, there's not a problem with that, but can I get on with singing, please?" comes the retort. Oh, girl, you did NOT just take on the Tweedy. Ariel begins to sing, and I have no idea what it is. [I'm guessing it was an original Ariel composition. - Steve] At all. "That was a complete and utter nightmare," says Simon. "The idea behind it was that you get to understand that every line is a different style, OK?" replies Ariel. For good measure, Cheryl tells her that she's scary - "by the way you walked over to me, I thought we were gonna have a scrap!" That would be awesome. Go Team Tweedy! Ariel smirks, "You've obviously never been a rock singer then." Cheryl's jaw drops open, and she says, "Nooooo." Simon begins to criticise the song, and Ariel snaps, "The piece I have just performed, it is an academic construction, it is NOT a song." Cheryl bangs her head on the desk. Simon tells her they didn't like it, but apparently that is not a valid comment - "It is not something to be liked. It is something to be understood from an academic perspective. Obviously you're not an academic." Simon agrees that he's not, and tries to get rid of her by telling her she's not a very good singer, but she won't have that either - "Oooooooooh. We are proud," which just comes across as a desperate retort from a humiliated woman. She adds, "I shall say goodbye to you, but not before - " and then she breaks into song again, telling the panel to stick it, and that they're stupid. Time for security. Once in the secure arms of Dermot, she announces that she doesn't need Simon Cowell to tell her she can sing, because she has a degree in it. Oh, dear, universities of the world, watch this show and weep.

Next week! We're in Scotland, which is where Scottish people are from!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The X Factor: mending broken families since 2008

Season 5
Auditions episode 2
23 August 2008

I have a confession. I didn’t hate last week’s episode of X Factor. There were some genuinely talented people, there were no relatives WHO ARE DEAD, and the laugh-at-bad contestants were just stupid or there to take the piss and not actually borderline mentally ill. I’d like to think that ITV have readdressed the way the put this programme forward, but it’s more likely they just haven’t hit their stride yet.

The new ad bumpers are quite funny.

LAST WEEK!! CHERYL COLE! This week: a woman with a big mouth. A shaky boy. A woman who loves Louis. Poor deluded cow. It’s time! To face! The music! Music is in the broadest possible sense of the word!

Trucks and helicopters. Entire stadia of people are auditioning. I really really pity the producers who have to sift through them, sometimes. Introducing judges. Simon says it was ‘literally jumping in at the deep end’. No, Simon, it wasn’t. You know I love you, but your departure from proper English, and your unwillingness to understand what an adverb is for, do test me sometimes. Dannii says they need to find one amazing act. Well, not even one, really. Leon. Brookstein. Ward. It’s kind of a last man standing thing, really.

We ‘are’ ‘now’ ‘in’ ‘Birmingham’. Dermot’s CGI in front of them again [I feel I need to point out that throughout this episode I was begging Dermot to cut his hair. It was too long and curly and not pretty enough - Rad] . The queue is 2 miles long. 2 MILES. Deluded morons say deluded things. Dannii is away filming in Australia. We meet Sapphire and Jade, trainee beauticians, who call themselvese So Precious. They’re super confident. They will suck. I know this show so well that I can tell before they even sing. Cheryl really does do good appalled face. They destroy ‘Emotion’. They get the words wrong. And the tune. Simon said ‘you sounded like someone stepping on two cats. For, like, a minute’. They said the nerves got to them. It’s their passion and they’ve been practising for years &c &c. Why are people so deluded? It’s so sad. I mean, I know I can’t sing worth a damn. Doesn’t stop me singing when I’m at home, but to think you can make a career of it just because you like it? It’s horrible. It’s noes for So Precious.

They persist with the lie that the massive queues are being seen by the judges. Cut from the huge thousands of people to the judges’ room. We know that this is not the case. Dannii said in Radio Times that the producers see the thousands of people, then the judges see about 40 a day a few weeks later. Obviously everything about the audition shows is a carefully edited mishmash of lies, but man, it’s so blatant.

A utility worker called Cheryl sings ‘Sailing’. Is shit. Kernow (Cornish for Cornwall), two old guys, sing Bye Bye Love. Are shit. ‘Baby give it up’ plays. Cheryl says she wanted the groups until now. A girl called Alex sings. Is shit. Simon is all oh noes. A guy called John Bates claims it is the biggest stage in the world. He sings in a strange falsetto. Dermot says it’s a disaster, no after no. Then don’t put shit people through to the judges. Man I would love if these auditions were nothing but quite good people and really good people and you’d have some actual investment in whether people were good enough, rather than the good and the laughed out of the room. [I had to explain the whole 'everyone sees the producers and only the good/bad/sad see the judges' thing to my mum last night and she was like 'well, why don't they only put the good people through then?' My mum is too sensible for this show. She watches Strictly. - Rad]

Phil, a supply teacher, wants to be multi platinum album selling. Or, you know, an actual sentence. Oh sorry, Phill. (Loving the captions. Thanks ITV!) He sings Gold. His voice isn’t that bad. But then he holds the note for ages for no reason at all. It sounds horrible. It starts to drill into your head. There’s a brilliant edit to Dermot outside, to the waiting room, to outside the building, with the note holding. Does it again with Your Song. The judges are all laughing at him. Cheryl doesn’t like him. Louis says yes. Because he’s a moron. And says ‘at least you finished on a high note’ when Cheryl and Simon say no. God, I laughed at a Louis Walsh joke. Kill me.

Still Birmingham. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. Cyndi Lauper would wipe the fucking floor with these jokers. Like Cheryl’s girlband, there are some girlbands. One girlband is called Girlband. I think that’s genius. Or it might be fail. But I think I think it’s genius. They seem quite nice. One is called Phoebe. I wonder if she’ll do all the singing, like Hope’s Phoebe. Oh, they haven’t decided on a name yet. Sigh. Girlband is just a placeholder. [Boo! This is how disappointed I felt when Hear'Say called themselves Hear'Say instead of Popstars. - Steve] They like Girls Aloud. Singing Sam Brown’s Stop. I brace myself for Steve. Oh! They’re good. Like actually good. With a really interesting arrangement, actually taking advantage of the fact they have several voices to use. Cheryl says it’s the best chemistry and best harmonies they’ve seen. Simon says it’s overdressed, a bit too much. They should have turned up in jeans. Cheryl’s like, no, shut up, cos if they hadn’t made an effort, he’d have complained. Simon’s like ‘nuh-uh’ but it’s totally true. Cheryl says they’re the best girl group so far. Simon says it’s not a compliment. Cheryl, with an awesome fixed grin, says ‘take it as one’. Cheryl really is proving to be an awesome judge. Louis says no, for some reason. [Because he's a twat? - Carrie] [That was so weird - I was expecting a qualifying statement and none came - Rad] [Oh, Rad. You really must learn to stop expecting sense from Louis this show. - Steve] Cheryl and Simon say yes. Girlband are through.

Shirley is here to meet Louis Walsh. She shudders and shakes when she thinks of him. She thinks there will be chemistry when they meet. Oh, Shirley. Louis’s love is not for you. She has a rose for Louis. She says she loves Louis. Simon says ‘Why?!’ in a really truly baffled way. She’s going to sing Hero. Simon and Cheryl move away so she can sing directly to Louis. Shirley is single, she says. She’s then billed as a housewife. So, what? She lied to get to Louis? Or ITV just assume that any woman is a ‘housewife’ unless proven otherwise. How mildly offensive. [Maybe she got married, had kids, got divorced, but is still a 'homemaker', which I believe is the correct 21st century term. - Carrie] She cannot sing. At all. Cheryl says yes because she’s a stirring cow. Simon says absolutely no. Louis says yes. Ahaha. For once I don’t object to the stupid sending the shit person to bootcamp. Give the crazy old bint a bit more time with Louis. It’ll make her happy. [And scare the hell out of him. - Carrie]

A girl called Marika sings Amazing Grace and doesn’t oversing too much. Simon calls her ‘Eureka’ and tells her she’s through to bootcamp. Jade from South Shields is 15. Cheryl loves her. She sings Where Do Broken Hearts Go. Simon calls her a funny little thing. Three yeses. She’s quite good and is indeed a funny little thing. Blue eyeshadow if I remember rightly.

14 year old schoolboy Liam thinks about singing and doesn’t do work at school because he just thinks about singing. He’s a good looking boy. And here we have our swing-singing teenager! He’s got a very good voice though and doesn’t seem so insufferably smug as Ray Quinn or as completely devoid of stage presence as Leon. [He was cute and a nice singer but they have to get the swing out of him and give him some pop/rock/ballads/hip-hop/anything else, because I completely DO NOT WANT another swing boy- Rad]

23 year old call centre worker Alan is from Barnsley. He’s nervous and shaking and stuff. Dermot wishes him luck. He’s SO nervous. He wants to prove to his real family he’s not a waste of space and make his foster mum proud. I hear a sob story! He says, ‘A lot of people, if they’re honest, just want to make their parents proud’. He hopes they’ll get in touch and say they want to see him. God this is so sad. But not for the reason X Factor want it to be. The fact that he thinks this is the way to get his family is awful. X Factor want me to think ‘oh woes, but he will be reunited by the power of the X Factor!’, but what I actually think is that it’s so sad that this poor guy thinks the only way he could get back to his biological family is via the X Factor. Not to mention the fact that if you’re put into foster care when you’re a kid, there is probably a good reason. He says he doesn’t want pity. Simon says he never takes that sort of thing into account. Ahem, Simon. A-hem. Alan has a decent voice. A bit Westlifey. A bit American-sounding. But decent enough. Cheryl tells him he’s gorgeous. He can’t take a compliment at all and gets all bashful. Simon says there were tuning issues but he has a good voice and his foster parents did a great job. Three yeses and Alan is through. He cries. Simon says ‘This is about you now. Practice practice practice and start believing in yourself.’ Oh this poor guy. I can’t believe an X Factor sob story is drawing me in. He clearly has no belief in himself, at all, and feels totally wounded by being put into care. And he thinks the X Factor will fix that. It’s horrible. Let’s wait for a few weeks and wait for the red-tops to dig up his biological parents, who will be crack addicts, or paedophiles, or immigrants or something equally horrific. [Call me heartless, but that entire sequence had me banging my head on the arm of the sofa in horror. DO NOT WANT Foster Boy and his sob story, and I DO NOT WANT bloody Leon Redux from earlier either. THIS FUCKING SHOW. - Steve]

We ‘are’ ‘in’ ‘London’ ‘now’! Dermot appears to be actually there, cos it’s a storm, and his umbrella is blowing out and stuff. People have waited in the rain all night long. Sad pathetic bastards. Someone in my building is cooking food that smells really good. Sorry, but that’s a more relevant thought to me than this filler.

Dannii is back from Oz. 23 year old holiday camp singer Holly wants people to hear her sing. She says that her voice is big and powerful and she doesn’t look like she’d have that voice. She’s a little...intense shall we say? Dannii asks who she aspires to be. She says ‘I aspire to be ME.’ She does jobs she doesn’t like just so she can sing for a living. She’s really weird. Her voice is...yes, large. But it’s kinda doughy. It’s very odd. She sounds like she’s putting it on. I can’t explain it at all. It’s very deep and completely mannered, but you can tell how if you were inside her head hearing it, you might think it was good. Her mouth is big and mobile. Simon says she’s horrible. She asks why she’d get employed if she couldn’t sing. She says she wants a chance. She needs this. Dannii says it was verging on funny. Simon tells her to take up sales because she’s a great speaker. Louis says ‘yes, telesales,’ because he’s a moron. Simon says motivational speaking, saving it slightly. Holly is super distraught and doesn’t believe that everyone who heard her, and her agent, can be wrong. ‘I’m NOT wrong!’ Cripes. Poor girl has been broken in two by the X Factor. I mean, she will never have a recording career and maybe it’s good for her to learn that but at that moment she was just broken.

Montage o’ noes. Old man. Young girl. Two fat boys called JJ compare themselves to Nickelback and Take That, then sing TLC’s Waterfalls. Well, speak it. Cheryl says there’s just nothing there. Which is true. Times Two are a husband and wife duo. Times 2. Sorry. Loving the captions. They’re not good. She is Eastern European. Nothing else to say.

Owen [Eoghan! - Carrie] [My mum was all 'how can immigrants learn English when we have stupid spellings like that?' There was a fatal flaw in her logic - Rad] is 15. He is IRISH and from IRELAND. He can’t see himself doing anything except singing. It’s his life. He appears to know that you can’t get more than 100%, which is nice. He sings Home by X Factor favourite Michael Buble. He sounds like a girl. Simon tells him he rushes and gets him to do his second song, which is Tears In Heaven. He slows down a bit and sounds better. Dannii and Cheryl Lap. It. Up. Louis likes him. Simon says he’s terrific. ‘Whatever ‘it’ is, you’ve got it.’ Girls and mums will love him. Yeses all round. His whole fucking school are waiting to find out and mob him with delight when he tells them he's through. What a joke. [Since when do Year 10 students get to sit in a gym all day waiting for their classmate to come back from That England and an audition? Fucking stupid show. - Carrie]

Imani is 17. She has 48 people with her. She has a pretty little voice. Very clear. She goes through. Michael Dumoulin plays for Harlow Town football club. He sings Moondance. Swing swing swing. Bleurgh. He goes through. RTI are a girl band who want to be a British Destiny’s Child. They sing in very closer harmony. 4 yeses.

Dermot waffles on bollocksly about ‘stuff that you JUST saw but now in washed out tones’ because this wouldn’t be this show without filler.

Alexandra is BACK! You remember Alexandra? She appeared years ago, and was great, and talked about Jesus a bit too much and then Louis was a retard and sent her home [Because she was a GIRL. So we got Philip instead. Treat. - Rad] [Well, technically we got Chin Eye instead, because there was only ever one spot for a girl, because Louis - well, I'll leave that to your imagination. - Steve]. We see her being devastated and stuff. She’s 19 now. Louis recognises her, which is nice, I suppose. Alexandra says she’s grown up and stuff. She sings Saving All My Love For You. She really is very good and her closing notes are especially nice. Cheryl pulls a face at Louis in a ‘you said no to this?!’ sort of way. Louis says she’s world class and is a diva now. Alex cries and stuff. Cheryl’s close to tears and has goosebumps and says ‘you were born to sing’. Simon tells Alex Louis is stupid. Yup! So fire him. They try to build some tension with the yeses as if it were in any way in doubt. Simon says he can’t believe they nearly lost a talent like Alexandra and ‘thank God she’s come back’. She’s through.

Next week, they do seem to feature some mentally ill people, capering for your amusement. Good-o!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Someone kinda new

Series 5(!)
Auditions: Episode 1
16th August 2008

Welcome back, everyone! I trust you enjoyed your annual break from the show, and put out of your mind all thoughts of jazz gnomes, dead parents and everyone in Birmingham voting for you. So many things have changed since last we chatted, and yet so many things have remained the same. Are you ready? Here we go...

As ever, 'O Fortuna' is our soundtrack at the beginning, but for some reason, somebody decided it would be a good idea to hire the sarcastic E4 voiceover guy to introduce the show. Like we don't have enough trouble taking it seriously already. There's a new judge! It's Cheryl Tweedy Cole! Joining Simon, Dannii and Louis! Which means Sharon's gone! Hooray! And some random woman wants to go on a date with Louis, who looks horrified, as well he might [I think random women stalking Louis is a definite reason for a DRINK! Partly because it happens every year and partly because you need drink to stomach anyone stalking Louis - Rad] . This year, apparently, the auditions are bigger (yes), more extreme (we'll see), more emotion (somebody clearly forgot midway through this sequence what they were referring to because "emotion" is not an adjective), more talent (see above, and I have my doubts). It's time. To face. The music!

Following the shiny titles, Booty Luv's 'Some Kinda Rush' cues up on the soundtrack as we get our first proper glimpse of the deluded fools aspiring artists of tomorrow as they line up outside various venues awaiting their shot at the big time. Dermot stands in front of a green screen and tells us that the wait is over, The X Factor is back and bigger than ever. Some time later in post-production, wide-angle shots of the crowd are edited in behind him. This year 180,000 people applied, making it the UK's biggest ever auditions. This year auditions are being held in London, Glasgow, Birmingham, Cardiff and Manchester [Fuck you Ireland. And fuck you Newcastle/Gateshead. And fuck you too, Yorkshire. A shame, as I remember seeing them all auditioning in Sheffield last year in the pissing rain. I didn't stop to gawp, we'd not been flooded long before and I wasn't taking my chances - Rad]. Various people whom I am sure we shall never see again tell the camera how they're totally going to win and be super-famous.

Green-screen Dermot reminds us of the existence of the judges, who the show would have us believe are being flown to the first audition in four individual helicopters. That's just unnecessary. One of the helicopters has the callsign (? Registration number? Identification number? I don't know what you call it) C-PIMP. Bet you can't guess whose that one is. Simon says that people turn up to this show to change their lives forever. He says that Leona Lewis is the biggest talent show winner in history - fact. Hmm, I'm not so sure that's going to hold water. I think she might need to release another album first. I doubt she's outsold Kelly Clarkson just yet, anyway. [And it's a bit of a diss on Cheryl, too, seeing as Girls Aloud have had proven longevity and have released a billion more top ten singles - Rad] Simon adds that she's up there now with "the Mariahs and the Whitneys", neglecting to mention that wherever it might be that Whitney is currently up, she tends to be down about half an hour later these days. "That's what this show can do for you," he finishes, again neglecting to mention that one out of four is perhaps not the best recommendation, all things considered. Last year's winning judge Dannii Minogue says that the show really does change lives - Leon went from working in a shop (oh, the humanity!) to having a number one single, and is now recording his album. She's looking to land the winner again this year. She's also looking good. My boyfriend suggested that the plastic surgery might have finally taken hold properly, and I'm inclined to agree. Louis Walsh is responsible for over 60 million record sales (a lot of which were purchased by himself and kept in the boot of his car just to take Boyzone down when they were getting uppity), and wants to win this year. And our new judge, from Britain's biggest girl group, Cheryl Cole. She's very excited to have a hand in creating somebody's dream. We're reminded that Cheryl's journey to becoming a popstar began six years ago when she auditioned for Popstars Colon The Rivals, and looked a bit like Alyssa Milano. Cheryl says that she knows how the contestants are feeling, and that she's had an amazing career from a show like this. The judges exit their helicopters and get into individual cars (this show's carbon footprint must be huge!) as Simon VTs that he thinks Cheryl's going to find it harder than she expects (foreshadowing!). Dermot reminds us that they will eventually be battling each other, but will begin by working together to sort the scarce wheat from the abundant chaff.

We kick off in Manchester, which is a city that apparently possesses the mythical x-factor. Who knew? One man wants to be the next Robbie, a woman wants to have a sellout concert, and an old dude wants to have the Christmas No.1, even though that as an accolade is essentially meaningless nowadays thanks to this show [Poor Cliff - Rad]. No one is hoping their dreams will come true more than today's first act, says Dermot. No evidence is presented to support this utterly unqualified statement, but this will be happening a lot tonight so we might as well all get used to it now. They are Dreamtime, aka 17-year-old friends Nathan and Elizabeth. They're both good-looking in a homely sort of way, and have clearly been inspired by Same Difference, though they are neither as attractive or as endearing as the aforementioned. Nathan says they want to have millions of fans and be recognised worldwide. Dermot shows them through, and Cheryl, bless her, looks cheerful and excited to finally be meeting the contestants. She'll learn soon enough. Dannii asks for their names and their age, and Simon asks where they're from (he: Huddersfield, her: Canada, originally), and then asks if they're boyfriend and girlfriend, even though everyone watching is well aware that is not the case. Nathan is holding a CD that they made, which has sold around 180 copies [more than Steve Brookstein's second album, so fair play to the bloke - Rad]. Louis feigns excitement. Oh my shitting fuck and holy saints, they've only given in to three years of nagging and actually put a caption on the screen telling us who the contestants are as they sing [Steve: I saw that and thought of you - Rad]. Farewell, misspelled contestant names in the audition recaps! So Dreamtime, students, aged 17, begin singing 'We Belong Together' by Mariah Carey. So poorly that I don't even recognise it until we get to the chorus, despite the fact that it used to be the only song that was ever played in the changing rooms at my gym, so I've probably heard it about 396 times before. At least. Her voice is out of tune and thin, and he's singing in a weird falsetto and squeaky, and when they sing together, it's truly atrocious. When Nathan tries to sing Mariah's high counterpoint, Simon can't hold in the laughter and Cheryl's eyes are out on stalks. Dannii's face doesn't move, but when does it ever. They get to the end, and Nathan holds the final note about an hour longer than Elizabeth does, which clues us in that this is clearly a pisstake audition, if we were doubting that before now. Simon likes it to a "zoo" with the noises, and Cheryl says it "just got weirder and weirder". "I haven't sold 180 copies for no reason," says Nathan, who clearly just wanted to get on television for three minutes at any cost. Wish granted, Nate! I hope it's everything you dreamed of, and more. It's a unanimous no from the judges, and the fact that Girls Aloud's 'Sexy! No No No...' cues up on the soundtrack lets us all know what's coming: loser montage! But before we can get there, Simon asks Cheryl if this what she was expecting, and Cheryl replies in the negative, saying she's shocked. Even though we know that Cheryl watched the show last year so she clearly knows exactly what it's like, but had to say this because it was in the script. [I think Cheryl might have got this gig simply because she can do an excellent "appalled" expression. - Carrie]

Anyway, sweet montage! Truck driver John May, 53, sings 'You Make Me Feel Brand New' in an insane falsetto, and Cheryl's all "yeah, um, I didn't really get it?" Hee. Love Cheryl. Retired carpenter Peter Dockray, 65 (these captions are GREAT - seriously, I rag on this show a lot, but a heartfelt THANK YOU to Talkback Thames for including them) bellows 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', until Dannii makes him stop. 17-year-old Vicky Maxted (a cleaner) wants to be like Leann Rimes, and happens to sing 'My Heart Will Go On' poorly just as an actual real-life tumbleweed blows through the room! What are the odds? "It wasn't even a half out of ten," sighs Simon. During a break, Cheryl frets that she thought the talent would be of a higher standard than this [I call lies - Rad]. Then again, she voted for Leon, so she has only herself to blame.

Commercials. Vanessa Hudgens for Neutrogena, because next time naked photos of her get leaked onto the internet, she doesn't want pimples on her labia.

Auditions have moved to London, says Dermot. So that's Manchester officially dunzo, right? We'll see. Anyway, the auditionees for London have filled the O2 Arena, which is a terrifying thought. Dermot reminds us who the judges are [And they enter the judging chamber. Note: Cheryl is wearing an orange and white top - Rad], because apparently everyone who watches this show is thicker than a McDonald's milkshake. Some people sing well in the holding room, and some do not. Boyband JLS are first [and as we cut to the judges, who entered the chamber nary a couple of shots ago, we see Cheryl has a black and green type top on. I mean, it's *possible* she spilled her drink down it inbetween entering the room and the contestants coming in - Rad]. [If you're going to be surprised every time that supposed chronological order is belied by clothing, presence of judges, haircuts, and so forth, you'll have no time to do anything else.-Joel] Dermot feels out of place amongst them because he is not wearing a pastel colour, and also because he's about six inches shorter than the rest of them. They want it a lot, it's their lives, etc etc. They want to be the first group to win the show. Righto then. Louis asks them who they'd like to be like, the answers come thus: Take That, Boyz II Men, Westlife, Jodeci. Anyone else spotting the inherent problem here? They sing 'If I Ever', and it is well-arranged for their voices. They overdo it by a factor of about 20, but I'm willing to cut them some slack given that it's the early round and they're trying to get noticed. Cheryl loves them and thinks the industry needs a new boyband. She offers some constructive criticism (gasp!) by pointing out that they were missing a low harmony in a few places, but overall she liked them very much. Dannii likes their personalities, think they're well-rehearsed, and actually likes each individual voice. Louis thinks they don't look contrived, and look early Motown (because as ever, everything needs to be compared to something ancient from his record collection). [And because they are black, obviously. Looking forward to the first "young Diana Ross" comment of the series, which is surely imminent. - Carrie] Simon thinks they all have great voices, especially the second one from the left. (I'll bother to learn their names if they get past boot camp.) It's a unanimous yes. Celebrations, rah rah rah. Simon says that anyone would take the groups right now just to get to work with JLS [Really? I mean, they were OK and all, but we've seen it all before with 4Tune and 4Sure and all the other '4' bands - and also, change your name to something beginning with 4 already - Rad].[4sight? 4titude? 4EVAR?-Joel]

Shauna Buckingham wants to be the first Irish winner of the show (seriously, if you are going to start another fucking "battle of the nations" this year, missy, you can GET THE FUCK OUT RIGHT NOW). [Did you see how Louis's weaselly little eyes lit up when she announced that she is IRISH and FROM IRELAND? - Carrie] She is 16, and a student. She sings 'Warwick Avenue' by Duffy, and gets a yes from Louis, to no one's surprise. But she gets yeses from everyone else, and is through. Girl group Chaos (aged 21-27) sing a very nicely done rendition of Christina Milian's 'When You Look At Me', and would get through with me for song choice alone. Cheryl loves them, and they're through. 21-year-old Austin Drace from Essex gets a special intro all to himself about how much he wants this, to the extent where I genuinely expect him to mention a deceased relative at any second, but bizarrely, no such revelation is forthcoming. Yet. He kind of looks like Limahl, minus the mullet. He sings Boyz II Men's 'End of the Road', which I am officially O-V-A-H as far as audition songs go. But he has a decent voice and nice control, and the judges love him. Cheryl thinks he's very soulful, and is excited to see where he can go. Simon thinks the competition needs him. Austin's through.

Plinky piano of sorrow and regret alert! No one needs the break more (O RLY?) than our next contestant: 26-year-old full-time mum (is there any other kind?) Rachel Hylton, who I hope is no relation of Javine's. She tells Dermot she wants to get to the live shows, and wants to have a better future for her and her children [because being on The X Factor, as we know, is a purely altruistic act - Carrie]. Things haven't been easy for Rachel, you guys! Aged 13, she had the first of her five children (no disrespect intended, Rachel, but: contraception. Look into it) and spiralled out of control. She had drug problems, went to prison, her first three children were taken into care, and she now looks after her youngest son and daughter, the latter of whom is with her today. Rachel has turned her life around and is focused on her music. She's embarrassed about her past, but won't let it hold her back. Rachel goes in to see the judges. Cheryl asks her for her main goal, and Rachel says that singing is her life, and she doesn't want to do anything else. "I hear ya," Cheryl replies. Hee! "Have you been told you're good?" Simon asks. "Well, I've been told I'm good, but I know how you are and whether you like me or not is a different thing," replies Rachel, cackling. Rachel is kind of awesome. Cheryl asks Rachel for her idols, and Rachel says soul and R&B, which is a non-sequitur, and Cheryl confirms that this means Rachel is versatile, and this is a completely nonsensical conversation. Cheryl asks if Rachel likes Girls Aloud, and Rachel's all "yeah!" and does Cheryl's dance routine from the 'Heartbreaker' video. See? Awesome. Simon asks for her backstory, and Rachel cops to the drugs and prison and lots of kids thing, and we're told that her oldest child is 13 this month and Rachel is 26 and you can see Simon doing the maths in his head and being all "whoooooaaaaaa". Rachel sings 'You Know I'm No Good' by Amy Winehouse in a slightly affected Amy-like tone, but I do really like the smoky quality of her voice. And let's face it, the way things are going, it's no bad thing to have a spare Amy Winehouse lying around in case anything happens to the old one. Simon stops her, and Rachel starts babbling about how she thinks she's just ballsed it up, but the judges love her. Louis calls her a "rough diamond", and Dannii thinks nobody would try harder. Simon thinks she's a "breath of fresh air". Four yeses for Rachel; she's Simon's favourite auditonee so far this year, and she's through. The Mariah and Whitney version of 'When You Believe' (HA!) comes on the soundtrack, and Rachel hugs her daughter. She wants to make her kids proud. The judges head off, with Simon still singing Rachel's praises. [She's great, but I would like to state for the record that I object in advance to 'your kids will be so proud' and 'everyone deserves a second chance' and Rachel saying 'I just want a better life for my family, I want to prove I'm not a bad mum' and then crying. Because she is more than talented enough to not need that emotional manipulation.-Joel]

Back from the break, and we're now in Cardiff. Bloody hell, at this rate we'll only need two audition shows this year! Please God, let it be so. Anyway, there's a bit of business about the streets of Cardiff being deserted because everyone's auditioning for The X Factor, wanting to be the first Welsh winner. Dannii's running late (hmm, curious) so Simon, Cheryl and Louis start without her. First up are brothers And & Seb, and there will be absolutely no suspense here because all of the pre-release press listed these bozos as one of the worst acts who auditioned. They want to be the first Welsh group to win. Ant looks sleazy, Seb looks borderline remedial. They tell the judges they have their own style, but Seb is like P Diddy and Ant is like Usher. If you didn't see the episode, let me tell you now that Ant & Seb are both white, so we know how this is going to play out. Oh, and Ant sings like Rick Astley as well, we're told. They're singing 'Mysterious Girl', with Ant slurring his way through the melody while Seb attempts to be Bubbler Ranx, though he looks a bit lost all the way through. Ant's voice is passable (might've got through to boot camp if he'd auditioned on his own, but we probably wouldn't have actually seen him do it because really, he's not very good), Seb's contribution is minimal, the judges are wetting themselves. Simon calls them "Ant & Deaf", and then we move on to the delusion part of the audition. Simon calls it "crazy bad". Despite unanimous refusals from the judges, and Seb tells Ant to sing 'If You Were Mine'. Yeah, sing 'em a song, Della! Ant sings again, Simon is no longer amused and tells them both to cut it the fuck out, and they refuse to take "you suck" for an answer. Burly Security Man Tony ushers them out, where a very disingenuous Dermot rebukes him for manhandling the wee cherubs.

Dannii arrives, but things are not going well in Cardiff. Mark Gartside, a 25-year-old church co-ordinator with terrible dress sense, sings 'Bootylicious'. Jesus does not approve. He was told 'Your voice isn't good enough', to which my Mum chipped in, 'Your face isn't good enough.' Harsh but fair, my mum.-Joel] Rita Brigitta Zafirou, a 39-year-old cleaner with a peroxide perm, thinks she can be bigger than Madonna. Her rendition of 'Vogue' begs to differ. Two-piece boyband Symmetry sing through their noses. Simon goes for a piss, and has to walk past Ant & Seb, who are just casually hangin' with Dermot in a totally uncontrived manner. Ant starts to sing 'Never Gonna Give You Up'. I wish someone would RickRoll him. Dermot doesn't even have the decency to look embarrassed about what he does for a paycheque these days. Dannii is not impressed with Cardiff. [Maybe she should watch Torchwood? - Carrie]

Alexandra Davies is feeling the pressure more than most (sigh), because she is from Bridgend. As in, the place where all the suicides happened. So essentially her sob story is "my brethren, WHO ARE DEAD". Though whether she actually knew any of them is unconfirmed [I don't think she did. I think the producers just went 'oh look, you're from that suicide place. Do you know anyone WHO IS DEAD?', she said no, they said 'oh well, we'll bung it anyway'. And actually not only is it insensitive to bring that whole thing up, it's MEGA insensitive to say that some random 16 year old girl auditioning for The X Factor who didn't know any of the people who died is going to in any way atone for the loss of all those other young people. I'm not blaming Alexandra of cuorse, it's totally this manipulative show. Anyway, soapbox over - Rad] . It's a crappy sob story, however you look at it. She will, I assume, not be singing the theme from M*A*S*H. She's hoping to provide some good press for Bridgend. But Alex has confidence issues! She sings 'Fields of Gold' [aka "the song from the dead people advert" - Carrie. And Louis Walsh's favourite song EVAH - Rad] and her voice is pleasant but wobbly, and there are a few moments where she wanders away from the tune entirely. It is, quite possibly, her just not quite knowing how to use her voice properly, and something that could be ironed out at bootcamp. I'm such a softie in these early shows. Cheryl calls her "cute" and says she has "not a bad voice", which sounds like damning with faint praise to me, but Louis thinks she is likeable, and Dannii thinks she has passion, and let's face it, the standard which have been set by Cardiff so far have not been high. Simon tells her to start believing in herself, because she might be better than she thinks. Because there can be miracles when you believe, y'know. Although her victory music is 'Through The Rain', because of all the deaths and that.

In the tease of what's coming up in the next part, the final shot is of a tearful Cheryl whispering "I've got to go" to the camera, before turning and walking off to the side. I cannot do it justice here, but it was AWESOME.

Actual Real Life Non-Greenscreen Dermot is back in Manchester, the city that they totally left and came back to, honest! I will never trust a word you say ever again, Dermot O'Leary. The yeses are flooding through, including Malcolm McKenzie, a 25-year-old house-husband, who sings 'Sexual Healing' passably if unremarkably, and 35-year-old marketing manager Andrew Bridge sings 'Lately'. I sure hope his recoriction nishes! 17-year-old student Aimee Hargreaves oversings Jennifer Rush's 'The Power Of Love', but gets through anyway.

We get a flashback of the episode so far, focusing on Cheryl, who's feeling drained. Can anyone guess what's coming? Oh yes: it's Nikk from Phixx, just as we all heard about. Sorry, 24-year-old "club singer' Nikk Mager, because no mention of Phixx will be made at all during the show. Not even any gratuitous shots of one of their many shirtless and homoerotic videos. Boo! [God, I LOVED Hold On Me. I bought the CD with the video on. My then-housemate had to take it off me and limit my access to it because it simply wasn't healthy. - Carrie] [I loved sweaty naked Phixx as much as the next gay, but I think Strange Love is a genuinely great song.-Joel] The show does, however, make countless references to Nikk auditioning "alongside" Cheryl during Popstars Colon The Rivals [and they kept saying they got through to the top ten, but let's be honest here, it was the top twenty: 10 boys, 10 girls - Rad], implying that they were total BFFs throughout the audition process, as opposed to two entirely unconnected people who just happened to make it through to the finals of the same show. Anyway, Cheryl made it into Girls Aloud, and Nikk didn't make it into One True Voice. Also, he used to have really bad skin. We see Nikk singing to a tiny but appreciative audience at a working men's club. He hasn't achieved his dream of being a successful recording artist. But, in fairness, he has been on Top of the Pops, [and sold more records than One True Voice, probably - Rad] which kind of says to me that he's had his chance and it's over now. But I'm not uncharitable, so we'll give him a fair crack of the whip. Again. Nikk walks into the audition room and Cheryl's all "OMG!" and Simon and Louis are all "what? Do you know this guy?" even though Louis was a goddamn judge on that other show, and clearly already knows Nikk just as much as Cheryl does. Simon asks Nikk what happened in the past six years, and Nikk does not mention Phixx AT ALL, but we are all made aware that this is his last shot. Nikk sings 'The Rose', not all that well. It's very strained, and kind of nasal, and he's going red all the while. Louis doesn't think Nikk has a great voice. Dannii agrees, and thinks he's too old to be in a boyband (he's 24! It's not like he has grandchildren!) so she doesn't know where to place him. Cheryl says she doesn't feel like she can judge him, and gets up to leave. Although, all credit to her, rather than being all drama-seeking like Sharon would've been, she just walks off mumbling that she'd be biased in her voting and it wouldn't be fair, which is a very good reason, if you ask me [although it would have been better if she said that before he sang, as it was clear after hearing him that she knew he sucked and couldn't bear to say it, or to lie and put him through - Rad]. Of course, she then kind of blows it by hovering on the sidelines rather than leaving the room, but eh, she's new. I'll give her a break, this time. Simon tells Nikk the competitions have gone up (oh, please) and he has gone down. Nikk, per Simon, has not got "it" and needs to stop chasing this impossible dream. [This is why I love Simon Cowell. Everyone says he's mean for telling people they can't achieve their dreams, but you know what? Some people can't. And when he breaks it gently like this - 'find something else that will make you happy, that won't leave you frustrated and upset' - it's genuinely what people need to hear. And with the deluded people he says no to, it boils down to one thing: Simon Cowell doesn't like seeing you make a fool of yourself. Listen to him.-Joel] Three nos for Nikk, most of the cameras taking in Cheryl's reaction rather than his, Cheryl gives him a hug, Nikk leaves, and Cheryl returns to the judging table. A tearful Nikk says outside that it was his last chance, and he did his best. Inside, Cheryl says that experience was "awful". Dermot VOs that Cheryl has learned "the harsh realities of The X Factor" (suuuuuure) have been too much to bear. Cheryl cries into a giant tissue for poor Nikk. And then does that brilliantly stagey walk-off we saw earlier.

In the car, Cheryl says that today reinforced how powerful a yes or a no can be, and that she can make or break somebody. And that's the last we see for this week! Wow: downer ending.

Next week: scary woman, another scary woman, another scary woman, crying woman, scary man, another crying woman, toothless old woman with a ladyboner for Louis, some woman who I'm guessing doesn't understand what "stupefied" means. Yep, I'll be needing a drink to get through that one.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Never had a dream come true

Xtra Factor: One Year On
TX: 15th August 2008

Welcome back, everyone! It's been a gripping eight-and-a-half months since we last saw each other. A time in which Leon Jackson has achieved global domination, and all of the people who flamed us on here for daring to suggest that he was shit were proved entirely right. It's almost time for the new series to start, but in order to milk that cash cow a little further before Saturday, ITV2 have offered us a recap episode. Which will make this a recap of a recap. How very meta.

The sultry voice of Holly "Boobarella" Willoughby remind us that last year The X Factor burst onto our screens with a bang, and library shots of tabloid front pages remind us of that sweet yet all-too-brief time when Louis Walsh had his overpadded arse canned from this show and was replaced by some guy who was not Louis Walsh, and apparently danced a bit or something. Yeah, I'd never heard of him either. Anyway, Holly tells us that a record-breaking 150,000 people applied, though she neglects to point out that this vast pool of talent led to a Top 12 including Bellowing Beverley, a five-piece girl group where only Rogue from X-Men did any singing, and Niki, who never met a song she didn't like to sing off-key. Anyway, Leon won, which tells you all we need to know about last year. Tonight we'll be getting a look back at last year's series (really? It was bad enough the first time) and getting a sneak peek at the new one.

After the titles, Holly's striding around outside an audition venue of some kind, looking curiously like a blow-up sex doll. She informs us that she'll be talking to some of the ex-contestants to see how their lives have changed since they were on the telly. Since not one of them has been in the charts since about March, I'm guessing the answer will be along the lines of "not much. Do you have a Clubcard?" Cut to clips of Niki and Bellowing Beverley pretending they are still relevant, and then some "classic" shots from last year, including the always-welcome shot of a door pwning Sharon. [Ah, happy days. - Carrie] Holly also adds that last year's winner Leon will tell us what he's been up to since he won. And as so many people have said, the very fact that he has to explain in the first place kind of undermines the very foundations upon which this show is built. "Sometimes you have to pinch yourself and say, 'I'm making an album!'" says Leon. Lord knows if I were involved in the recording of his album, I'd need to find new ways of keeping myself awake too.

Holly VOs that the audition process is nerve-wracking for most people, which is the show's cue to remind us about Rhydian, who they wanted us to believe was an egomaniac until they decided to turn him into some bizarre Max Headroom kind of camp icon a few weeks later. Yeah, remember that? Good times. Lots of shots of Rhydian's rhydiculous costumes and dance routines from last year. All New Rhydian VTs that he's always been ambitious, and saw the show as a platform to success. Simon reminds us that he thought Rhydian was an idiot at first, but he grew to like him. Rhydian recalls singing badly in his audition, looking stupid and Dannii hating him, but Simon saw some potential and put him through. All New Dannii admits to having been scared of him at first. Rhyd remembers being scared at finding out Dannii was his mentor because she didn't like him. This segment is underscored by 'I Begin To Wonder', by the way. Are they underpaying Dannii to the extent where she needs to bump up her income with more PRS cheques? Dannii refers to him as "unpredictable". Flashback to Simon calling him "potentially world-class". Another flashback to the crazy white fur coat and Shirley Bassey's version of 'Get The Party Started'. Louis kicks off this season's Idiotic Statements ledger by saying "there's Madonna. There's J-Lo. And there's Rhydian. They're all one name." First of all, you blockhead, "J-Lo" is a contraction of her first name and surname, and it's a tabloid nickname rather than the name she records under. Second of all, all the solo acts on this show go by their first names during the show, you cretin. Third of all, could you save us all a lot of time and energy by just shutting the hell up now and staying that way until after Christmas? [Remind me again why he's needed on this show? My stomach ulcer is twitching at the very thought of watching his smug leprechaun face for the next four months. - Carrie]

Rhydian VTs that Simon told him to lose the gimmicks, and he got given 'You Raise Me Up'. Holly tells us that Rhydian went from strength to strength on the live shows, and we are reminded of some heartfelt praise from the judges. Rhydian says that performing in the final terrified him - cut to him singing 'You Raise Me Up' with that Katherine Jenkins bint whom I can't stand. [Nor me! - Carrie] In a moment of honesty the like of which is seldom seen on this show, Rhydian confesses that the final was his worst week, performance-wise, that it didn't gel, and that he knew he wasn't going to win. Cut to Dermot announcing Leon's name for the benefit of all the people sitting at home going "hang on, who did win, then?" Dannii thinks Rhydian has a huge career ahead. Simon thinks he has a great future. Rhydian tells us he's spent the whole year working on his album in places like Nashville and LA, and Holly tells us it'll be out in November [There goes my expectations of a Lee Mead/Connie Fisher/Rhydian triple bill for Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom sequel - Rad].

Back from commercials, and Lifesize Sex Doll Holly is being underscored by 'Let's Hear It For The Boy', which is fabulous. Coming up are Same Difference (yay!) and Zoe (boo!), but first: Futureproof! (Ehh.) Last year, Holly reminds us, in an entirely spontaneous move, the judges decided to take some of the acts who hadn't made it as solo artists and form them into groups. Some of these people included Phoebe, who for some reason was cut in favour of Alisha, Zombie Emily and Komedy Kimberley. I will never understand that. Anyway, Holly refers to Futureproof as the "first ever X Factor boyband", which: FAIL. Shot of Futureproof making it through to the live shows. One of them is currently talking to the camera, but I have no idea which one. Anyway, he whinges a bit about having to sing 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You', and we recall Simon having to choose between Futureproof and Darlene Cake and Her Merry Band of Skanks. The lag and her bitches won that battle, of course, and Futureproof went off to do...well, clearly not very much, since the show just basically shrugs at this point.

Alisha next! Singing Gabrielle's 'Dreams', with a touch of irony. Having been on the show, she wants to continue pursuing her dream of a music career. But preferably not on roller skates. Asbestos Andy refers to the "biggest highs and the biggest lows" on the show, though neither of these being in his vocal range, from what I remember. He lies that his life has changed completely, although it looks like his hair has, at least. He still needs a shave, mind. He's gigging a lot, apparently. DILF Daniel is now very orange, and is apparently singing on the Black Eyed Peas' next album. As a backing vocalist, before you get too excited. He spouts a lot of clich├ęs, none of which are very interesting. [Where are Komedy Kimberley and ZombiEmily, huh? Or the band of skanks for that matter - Rad]

Aaaaaaand Zoe! Quite why we need to see this again, I don't know. Anyway, we get a present day catch-up with Zoe, who looks faintly embarrassed, as well she might. Holly says it's nice to meet her, since obviously this sort of thing was Fearne's job last year before she fucked off to America to do Last Comic Standing (sidebar: Jeff Dye, call me!). Holly claims that "no way!" became a catchphrase thanks to Zoe, which never happened but never mind, and then exposits that Zoe has recorded a single. No way!, says Holly. Stop trying to make "no way!" happen. It is NOT going to happen. That is the ugliest effing skirt I have ever seen. Man, this show would be so much better if it were hosted by Regina George. The single is called 'No Way'. And she's actually going to sing it on the show. Well, I say "sing". I mean, come on, the whole thing is such a crock of shit, and if this is a real single, which I deeply doubt, it has been Pro-Toolsed to hell and back.

The Wildcats fight song from High School Musical comes on, which can only mean one thing: Zac Efron! I mean, Same Difference! Aw, I'd forgotten how adorable they were. Sean, still in his lovely black cardie, white shirt and tie combo from last year, recalls how odd it was for Simon to call them annoying and put them through anyway. They proceeded to the live shows, where they gave the best performance of the series with 'I Don't Feel Like Dancing', which sadly is not shown at this stage. Sarah woobies up good by recalling how mean Louis was to them. Various insults which he threw at them are replayed, and present-day Louis claims he didn't believe anybody could be that nice. Well, with cunts like him around to bring them down, small wonder. [Maybe Louis could make friends with Rex from Big Brother. Small-minded, cold-hearted, rude, cynical, evil bitchery galore. And not in a good way. - Carrie] Sean recalls Simon sticking up for them. We see them singing 'Breaking Free' , 'Reach', 'Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now', and 'Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go'. Sarah says that 'Never Had A Dream Come True' was the most emotional performance for her by a mile. And probably their best, I think, on traditional levels. Simon says he thinks they are fantastic. We see them singing 'Any Dream Will Do' (why not 'All I Want For Christmas Is You'?) and that wretched moment where they lost out in a spot in the final to Leon. Sarah says life has changed for them for the better, and that Simon has actually signed them, and they've been recording an album. Simon says they're going to sell a lot of records, which I'm not entirely sure about [me neither, especially since Alphabeat turned up and took all that cheesy pop thunder - Rad], but they seem characteristically gleeful about it, so good luck to them.

"The X Factor is not just about singing talent," segues Holly. It's not about singing talent at all, is it? Oh, I see what she's doing here: it's about the whole package. Oh dear God, this is all leading up to yet another embarrassment on national TV for poor tubby Emma and her homemade wedding dress, but it's okay, since we all know fat girls eat their feelings, right? Emma has obviously had her hair and make-up done for her VT and looks nice, but also rather embarrassed in the same way that Zoe did. We replay her disastrous audition, though I'm not sure what she's done to deserve this. Present-day Emma thinks Simon was harsh. Present-day Simon is unrepentent. Then we relive that horrendous moment where she sang at the final and Emma signs off by saying that her future is to be a pop star or win The X Factor, thus proving she has learnt precisely nothing from the experience and absolving me of all my guilt as a viewer, though part of me wonders if she was told to say that by the production team because every reality show viewer knows that fat deluded people = maximum lulz.

Advert for CelebAir: Oh, Angellica Bell. Has it really come to this?

Back from the break, and we're catching up with Louis's acts. Oh joy. First up is Niki, who rode her father's corpse for all of its meal-ticket value sang her way through to the finals. You'll be pleased to know that she still looks like she has a lemon in her rectum. Holly asks her what it's been like, and Niki replies that it's like it never happened. HA! I bet it is. Holly asks what it was like to go from a dinner lady to a performer, and Niki's answer is not interesting and I can't be bothered to type it. When asked for her favourite performance, Niki says 'Hot Stuff'. You know, the one where she looked like a drag queen and told Simon she wanted to see him have a go? Bint. History has not been kind to this performance. Holly and Niki discuss the time she met Celine Dion, and then obliterated 'My Heart Will Go On'. Holly discusses the point where Niki got the boot in the semi-final (hooray!) and interestingly, the camera is only on her here, probably because Niki is brandishing a machete in fury at the memory. Niki says it took a few days to sink in. Asked how her life has changed, Niki tells us that a year ago she was a school dinner lady, and last month she was with John Barrowman at Symphony Hall [asking for his autograph? - Rad]. My God, he literally gets everywhere, doesn't he? She also did the summer season at Butlins (hahahahahaha! As in, the sort of thing that Louis thought Same Difference were only good enough for, you mean? OH DELICIOUS IRONY, LET ME EAT YOU WITH A DAB OF MUSTARD) and she has a single, which will flop soon. I mean, "be out soon".

Reminder of mouthy Rachel from last year, along with some other objectionable auditionees. For some reason, this leads to Icaro. He tells Holly that he applied because he had a "need inside [himself]". A need for sectioning, if you ask me. Icaro tells Holly that Simon was JUS JELASS of Sharon because she fancied Icaro, which makes no sense, but Sharon isn't on this show any more, so it doesn't matter! Hooray! We're reminded of Louis being an obnoxious tit upon learning he had the over-25s, and Icaro sings 'Love To See You Cry' in half-Shakira half-Shetland pony style. Holly deploys a bit of snark, bless her, which goes right over Icaro's head. She then undoes this goodwill by inviting him to sing, and he "sings" 'There's A Kind Of Hush' to her.

Another "favourite contestant" was Beverley, apparently, who wanted to teach children valuable lessons about being abandoned by their beloved caregivers who'd much rather be dicking about on television on Saturday night than read them Green Eggs and Ham [Green Eggs and Ham? Are we in America now? Surely it would be The Village With Three Corners - Rad]. A reminder of Beverley bellowing in her audition. Louis saying that Beverley was one of his favourite contestants ever on the show because she was a genuine lady. Eh, she was no Beulah, that's for sure. Beverley recalls getting through to the live shows, and how it made her crumble. She wore a wig, and shouted a lot, and then she got voted off, in a deadlock where the judges couldn't decide and it was down to the phone vote to decide who went home. Beverley, in a display of logic I hope to God she never teaches to her class, explains that because Hope were a five-piece act, they were going to get five times as many votes as she did. That'll be why the groups win every year, then! Beverley was proud to get as far as she did. We revisit her horrendously tuneless singout. She tells us she's still teaching two days a week because she loves it, and not at all because she needs the money to fund her futile singing career. She has supported Lemar at Gleneagles in Scotland, though, apparently. Apparently she's signed a record deal and her album will be out next year. I'm sure it will be every bit as successful as Maria's.

Holly tells us that Louis has made his fair share of enemies over the years. Hi Holly! I didn't know you read our humble little blog. I didn't mean to call you a blow-up sex doll, honest. This brings us to Johnny Rocko, who wants to know how Louis is a millionaire and he is not. Preach it, Johnny! We revisit Johnny issuing his Italian curse to Louis, except Johnny tells Holly that it was in fact a load of old rubbish that he made up as he went along. Just like this show! Johnny makes up some more Italian for Louis, which apparently translates to "horse's head in your bed", according to Holly. I'm sure there have been far scarier things in Louis's bed.

After the break: Leon! I know, I can barely contain myself either. [Here is where I turned over to watch Casualty instead - Rad]

Holly reminds us how the mechanics of the show work, and we see the moment where Leon won and the bowels of Hell opened to swallow mankind. As much as I don't rate Leon, judging by his present-day VT, winning obviously did him a bit of good as he doesn't look like a crack addict any more. He's like Pete Doherty in reverse. His diction appears to have improved a little bit too. Just a bit, mind. Anyway, what's Leon been up to? Other than pissing people off by cancelling gigs, obviously. He rambles on for a bit inconsequentially, and we see his so-so audition from last year. Dannii says he was so endearing when they met him. Leon says the journey was a whirlwind (drink!) and we see him murdering 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' for Dannii in Ibiza, and then we see him sucking and jittering in the first week. Simon was ZOMG MEEN! to him, and Leon says it was "crushing" to hear. I'd feel sorry for him, except the bastard went and won. He remembers getting good comments for his smarmy rendition of 'Fly Me To The Moon' in week three, and then went from strength to strength, per Holly. This is not how I remember it at all. Leon claims that the final was the "first time in the competition [he] really wanted it", which sounds rather odd. Then he sang with Kylie and we all knew he was going to win at that point. I still haven't forgiven her or Dannii for that. Or for '2 Hearts', come to that, although Dannii didn't really have anything to do with that. Leon sings 'When You Believe', which is still tedious, and then we see Leon winning for like the fifth time tonight. Holly says that everyone agrees he is a worthy winner, which is yet another lie, since by "everyone" she means "the people on this show who stand to gain financially from his victory". Simon says Leon has changed dramatically in the last 12 months. Rhydian thinks Leon deserved to win on the night. Sean Difference wishes him all the best. Beverley is delighted Leon won. Louis thinks he is the real deal. Asbestos Andy thinks he is a great singer and a great friend. And a hot piece of ass. Niki's eyes turn white and she screams "IT SHOULD'VE BEEN ME! MY DAD DIED SO I COULD WIN!" Except not really, but she is conspicuous by her absence. Anyway, 'When You Believe' was No.1 for three weeks and outsold the rest of the Top 10 put together, so well done Leon. He's been working on his album, which is due out in October, and in all fairness, will probably sell well because of the remembrance factor now that the show's back on, but I doubt we've got another Leona on our hands here.

And that's it! Join us tomorrow (or more likely Sunday) to see the first day of new judge Cheryl Cole. And some terrible singers, apparently. Who'da thunk it?