As has been tradition for the past decade now, with the ending of August came the beginning of another series of what ITV will not let us forget is ‘the biggest show on telly’: The X Factor!
It appears to be crunch time for the show: last year’s ratings were down by an average of 1 million an episode, suggesting that people are getting bored with the format, and 2013 marks the end of ITV’s X Factor contract. So, depending on how well this series does, we may or may not see the show again next year. A life without X Factor! Scary.
Thankfully it appears that this series will be a successful one: viewers seem to have taken the changes to the format (reintroduction of Audition Rooms, return of Mrs O, etc.) well. Not only were people raving about it on social media, it attracted a peak audience of 9.7 million – which is still a far cry from the 11 million who tuned in to 2011’s opening episode, but vitally up by a million on that of last year. You can almost hear Simon Cowell breathing a sigh of relief.
I have to say that I really enjoyed this first episode, too. For a few years now, X Factor has been in need of reinvigoration – and who knew that simply bringing back two old favourites would do the trick?
It’s brilliant to have the “faaaaabulous, darling” Sharon Osbourne back on the panel. Not only does she bring some much-needed naughtiness to the auditions but she seems to be getting on well with all of the panel. Of course, it was a given that she and Louis would once again be joined at the hip but I was surprised to see that she doesn’t dislike Nicole. That’s not to say that she would have any reason to dislike her (my love for Sharon aside, the “Schermazing” Ms. Scherzinger remains my favourite judge) – but after the whole Dannii Minogue saga, I sort of expected her to immediately make any younger female member of the panel an enemy. Like I said, though, they seem to be getting on well.
The Room auditions made a very welcome return, too. I think with the arenas came too much acerbity, whether that was from the audience’s merciless booing and jeering or the judges being unnecessarily harsh and unforgiving towards auditionees (which in turn may have been owing to them wanting to show off to the crowd). And yes, there is still some bitchiness from the judges in the audition rooms but not much. Then, when the successful room auditionees perform at Wembley Arena, the judges feel like they already know them, so are therefore less inclined to tear them to shreds. It’s nice to see a bit of tact and politeness re-enter The X Factor.
So, that’s what I thought of the new – or should I say returning? – elements but what about the contestants themselves? Well there were a few surprises this weekend – the main one being that there was actually quite a bit of talent served up.
Sadly, J-Star wasn’t part of it. I think he and his sister knew what exactly they were doing: you don’t just walk into an X Factor audition, sing like an asthmatic Alexandra Burke and think that you’ve nailed it. I like to think that auditions like J-Star’s are a bet: you get drunk one night and during a game of truth or dare you’re landed with the latter and fill out and send off an X Factor application. And then there’s no going back, so you have to go through with it and make yourself look and sound as stupid as possible to get on TV and make it even slightly worth your while. But if that’s not what happened with J-Star, God help him. Perhaps he should audition with ‘The Laughing Policeman’ next year?
Justin Bieber tribute act (they exist? Lord help us!) Luke performed his own very good, very catchy song, entitled ‘Think Positive’. It was feelgood, it was different and I was so pleased he got through – although there was no chance of him not at the room auditions. I started to think that he could be the next Gabz from Britain’s Got Talent – she did quite well with her song, ‘Lighters’. Ditto Lucy Spraggan with ‘Lighthouse’.
And then his arena audition happened. His rendition of Daft Punk’s ‘Lucky’ didn’t go down well with half of the panel, meaning he received just two ‘yeses’ and was sent home. I was truly gutted for him. He had a great personality and while his arena audition wasn’t as impressive as his original, I think he should have been given a second chance. I hope we see him again next year. Then again, we don’t even know if there’ll be an X Factor next year, do we?
With the return of X Factor of course comes the return of the sob story. Sam’s seemed to be that she had a deaf dog. It’s like Peter Kay’s spoof never happened! Thankfully she had a lovely voice, too – and impressive range. Ooh, listen to me getting all technical! I think in her arena audition she was a bit adventurous with the notes at times and tried to go beyond her abilities but overall she was fantastic, and the judges and audience – both at Wembley and in the Twittersphere – seemed to love her. You can just tell that she’s one of these people for whom The X Factor will be life-changing.
I defy you not to love Fil (‘with an F’). His room audition was somewhat…unorthodox, shall we say, but there was some talent lurking in there somewhere as he did have quite a good voice. Fil (with an F, remember) transpired to be all mouth, no action, though, as the rockstar image that he boasted about just meant that he warbled and wandered around the audition room, guitar in hand, and showed none of the feistiness that is needed to be a real rock God. The judges initially sent him home but then decided to give him a second chance – on the condition that he would come back with a bit of fire in his belly and really become a rockstar.
He didn’t. He just removed his shirt, ran around the auditorium at Wembley Arena and then jumped on the judges’ desk, meaning poor Sharon was just inches away from Fil’s Fallus (with an F, naturally). Bless him, he really tried to embody a rockstar but he was more like a Stars in Their Eyes contestant impersonating Alice Cooper without wanting to make a fuss.
At their first audition, Silver Rock performed as a duo but the judges failed to see them working well together, so gave them the opportunity to go through to the arena stage as solo artists. They accepted this offer and split surprisingly amicably – although admittedly it may have been a different story of if they had known each other for a few years, instead of just a couple of weeks.
I liked Jerrie in her arena audition, but it appears that the judges didn’t because they gave her just two ‘yeses’ and sent her home. Tamera, on the other hand, did get through to Boot Camp, but it wasn’t an easy ride for her: very nervously she stood on the stage while her song, Whitney Houston’s ‘I Have Nothing’, began. She lifted the microphone to her mouth and…nothing. She had frozen and forgotten her words. The judges allowed her a few minutes to gather herself, go backstage and have a quick chat with her mum, who, along with Dermot, reminded Tamera of the lyrics of her song. She took to the stage once again and – give or take a few stumbles – shone. She was brilliant! It’s difficult to know whether it was just nerves that got the better of her on the day or she will continue to have a problem with remembering lyrics but I hope it was simply a one-off – because I doubt the judges will be quite so lenient if she messes up again.
Yes, seventeen-year-old Hannah had a bit of a ‘sob story’ to tell but that doesn’t matter. I admire her for overcoming so much adversity in her life, taking a stand and wowing everyone with her renditions of ‘Read All About It’ and ‘One Night Only’. She has an amazing talent and I wish her all the best in the competition. Of course, no one can completely know what goes on behind closed doors but I hope her mum watched The X Factor and saw her daughter do herself proud.
So, a strong opener for X Factor, not just in terms of ratings but the talent on offer, too. If the series continues in this way, we should be in for a few months of brilliance.
The X Factor is on Saturday and Sunday nights on ITV, with The Xtra Factor immediately after on ITV2
What did you think of The X Factor? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Please comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer.
You can also see what’s coming up on TV in the coming week on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.