I have succumbed for another year. The audition gruntings and howlings of the UK’s most erratic hopefuls finally gives way to the angelic harmonies of the final twelve contestants. The X Factor dominates weekend television now, and everyone is a star. In fact, we are guaranteed – through Mr. Simon Cowell – that twice a year (X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent) we will find ourselves a new golden entertainer. Someone propelled to instant fame, i.e. being interviewed on GMTV, This Morning, and likewise, early-morning US news/gossip chat shows. There will be untold fortunes for them, kiss-and-tells in The Mirror and The Sun, makeovers, celebrity partners and that now (almost) dead cert, a Christmas Number One.
The X Factor is a prime example of the power of television as a medium. Perhaps not the power of ITV (though their advertising revenue from the show must be their greatest?) but of television’s ability to manipulate the public. Or should we say the power of Cowell and his burgeoning media empire, with the show broadcast on ITV, ITV2, STV, UTV, TV3, and then repeated on ITV and ITV2, streamed on YouTube, tagged on MySpace and Facebook, and so on.
The X Factor has become its own judge with the audience its partner in crime. For we watch, laugh, comment, record, and rewind all those eye-squinting, ear-bleeding auditions, and then, later down the line, pick up the phone and spend our hard earned cash voting for these nitwits. Nitwit reality stars whom A.A. Gill described as, “Bereft of a natural expression, the body language tortured into a physical Tourette’s by a thousand paparazzi, and you have to think: these are very, very bizarre, truncated human beings.” The X Factor and the audience are now the deciding judges. Simon Cowell is the brand.
He is a loveable rogue though isn’t he? Past the V-necks and high waistbands. Naïve sixteen-year-olds from Essex tumble out of their auditions in floods of tears (which infuriate their burly mothers) because Cowell has cut them off prior to finishing a powerhouse ballad, telling them, “Tesco will always need shelf stackers.” Yet they are pleased that he spoke to them. Louis, Danni and Cheryl can say what they like, dribble negative comments or heap praise, but it is Simon Cowell who commands respect and each individual, whether craving their fifteen minutes of fame or pursuing their childhood dream, long for the nod from Cowell.
For those with a smidgen of interest remaining, the previous series winners were:
Series One: Steve Brookstein (winning judge: Simon Cowell)
Series Two: Shayne Ward (winning judge: Louis Walsh)
Series Three: Leona Lewis (winning judge: Simon Cowell)
Series Four: Leon Jackson (winning judge: Danni Minogue)
Series Five: Alexandra Burke (winning judge: Cheryl Cole)
Series Six: ?
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