Archive for X Factor

Why do I watch the X Factor?

Posted in Music, Television with tags on 17 October, 2009 by Ally

There is a certain satisfaction in having your prejudices confirmed. Despite immense resentment and frustration, that satisfaction is what moves me to watch The X Factor. As a musician and music-lover, the programme goes against my fundamental beliefs about art and entertainment. Which is precisely why it’s unmissable.

Tonight my senses were once again assaulted by the boorishly loud audience and the murder of songs I couldn’t fucking stand in the first place. And if there is such a thing is a hate orgasm, John & Edward never fail to bring me to it. Not to mention the judges’ assertions that any of the acts even approached authenticity. Just thinking about it makes my fists clench, forcing me to type this article by stabbing wildly at my keyboard with a pen.

I refuse to call it car-crash television, because I respect crash victims’ privacy enough to avert my gaze. It’s more like pornography: Depressing, demeaning but shamefully compelling. But this I watch with my family.

That’s entertainment!

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The Public Veneration of Mediocrity

Posted in Television with tags , , , , , , , , , on 17 November, 2008 by Ally

I have become increasingly disturbed by the current trend towards mediocrity on television. We the so-called public seem to derive more pleasure from the bland and incompetent than from the talented. The only dancing programme on terrestrial television is Strictly Come Dancing, a competition where John Sergeant is saved weekly by the public vote, thanks to the sheer novelty of seeing him dance badly. Each week he tries admirably, but he simply has no innate dancing ability. He appears as either Tweedledum or Tweedledee in a dinner jacket, galumphing gracelessly around the floor, his feet landing clumsily in something vaguely resembling rhythm while his professional partner desperately tries to divert attention away from him by flashing her legs from beneath a glittery pink dress. The judges practically pulsate with fury, urgently persuading the public to stop supporting this awkward goon at the expense of contestants who can actually dance. No such luck! Clearly their fun little strategy of including a few token “no-hopers” has backfired. This is the ninth week John Sergeant has been saved by the public vote, while the elegant and surprisingly adept Cherie Lunghi was voted off. This is precisely the kind of ill-considered voting that made Boris Johnson the Mayor of London. Well, perhaps not quite that irresponsible. But still, a new demographic must be considered — the “yeah, that’ll be a laugh” vote.

Meanwhile the only music show on prime time terrestrial television is The X Factor, a sickening (and sickeningly compelling) glorified karaoke competition. Each week contestants perform songs of a different theme — disco, Mariah Carey, funeral dirges and so forth. In terms of record sales it is the most influential music show in Britain. The Michael Jackson evening was cited as responsible for drastically boosting sales of Jackon’s latest compilation. The US equivalent, American Idol managed to land Jeff Buckley at the top of the iTunes chart after one contestant performed a Buckley-styled version of Leonard Cohen’s ubiquitous Hallelujah. How can this be? How can a televised Open Mic Night inspire such a retail frenzy? And how can there be no room on the schedules for genuine music? If you want to see professional musicians playing live music with some degree of skill and accuracy, you have to stay up late and watch Later with Jools Holland. And that’s shite too.

It used to be that people were impressed by displays of talent and skill. During the Great Depression people were uplifted and entertained by Fred Astaire’s dazzling footwork and Groucho Marx’s lightning-fast repartee. Now we have another recession from which to distract ourselves, and our idea of entertainment is to complain in droves about tasteless prank calls —  whilst simultaneously demonstrating our own lumbering lapse of taste and judgement by voting for inept dancers, interminably bland singers and bumbling mayoral candidates.