WITHOUT wanting to turn this week’s column into a ranty list of personal hates about The X Factor, let me begin with a disclaimer.
There’s a slight chance that this week’s column could turn into a ranty list of personal hates about The X Factor.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
But it seems only fitting to begin with the series’ biggest talking point – no, not Dermot O’Leary mercifully having no dance routine last Saturday, but Rylangate.
I refer, of course, to cries of “fix!” by viewers when an executive producer shuffled up on his bum to Louis Walsh and whispered into his ear during the sing-off between bottom two Carolynne Poole, who can sing, and all-round irritant Rylan Clark, who can’t.
And what happened? Rylan stayed and the show succeeded in getting itself in the papers, that’s what.
You can buy ITV’s denials if you like but if you believe this programme isn’t fixed, orchestrated or carefully choreographed in virtually every respect apart from the public vote then brace yourself, because I’ve also got some really bad news for you concerning Father Christmas.
The X Factor is the most cynical beast on television, a fact that’s made all the worse with its choice of this year’s novelty act, attention-hungry reality TV floozy Rylan, who is trampling all over the glorious memory of Wagner and Chico before him.
Not even the mad genius of Brian Friedman’s staging can make me like the bloke. And I’m not alone.
As the first vote of the live shows demonstrated, the public aren’t interested in keeping him in.
You see, unlike Wagner and even Jedward, this time we’re not in on the joke. We’re the butt of it.
It’s not even as if there isn’t a ready-made alternative to the Essex-Ibiza human codpiece. 1980s throwbacks MK1 are potentially one of the most unintentionally funny acts this programme has given us, but they’re not capitalising on them.
And so it’s no surprise that Strictly Come Dancing, the perennial Saturday night bridesmaid, has leapt ahead in the ratings.
Rylan, however, is only the most visible part of the iceberg. So much else is now wrong, not least the judges.
Tulisa is not disguising the fact that she is mind-numbingly bored and is spouting an answerphone of hackneyed X Factor one-liners.
Employment tribunal chairman Gary Barlow is still labouring under the false impression that they’re searching for a global superstar.
Louis Walsh has lost whatever bottle he once had and told winner-in-waiting Ella Henderson that, during Lovin’ You, she “hit the big high Mariah Carey note” when she’d actually hit the big high Minnie Riperton note.
The fact that Nicole Scherzinger, who last Saturday was gargling a pint of bitter to wash down some pork scratchings with a face that looked like she’d just walked in on Lewis Hamilton in a compromising position with Jenson Button, has assumed the mantle of Best Judge should tell you everything about the other three.
The contestants are lamer than ever and they might as well just skip straight to the final between Ella, James Arthur and Union J.
And last week I said there would be no chance this show would pay Lucy Spraggan’s recently deceased grandmother the ultimate show of respect by not mentioning her death. I hate being right sometimes.
In fact, everything is infuriating. Rylan, Jahmene’s nervous giggle, Gary Barlow’s cross face, Louis trying to be cool, District 3’s affected American accent from a part of the US unknown to mankind, MK1 laughably being told: “You’re current,” all the time, and Rottweiler interrogator Dermot “buddy” O’Leary somehow getting each and every Sunday-night guest performer to confess that they do indeed have a new album out/are on tour soon.
That said, there is one positive I can draw.
At least this week’s column didn’t turn into a ranty list of personal hates about The X Factor.
This week’s Couch Potato Spudulike awards go to:
Strictly Come Dancing, notably Michael Vaughan’s have-a-go-hero jive.
The Thick Of It.
Red Dwarf, on Dave.
Channel 4’s Sing For Your Life.
The second episode of Homeland, which was so much more gripping than the excellent but slow-burning opener.
Total Wipeout’s best ever, most nail-biting Wipeout Zone between Riccardo the Italiano, Leo the Leader and all-time-record-equalling Non-Toff William who broke Richard Hammond’s “mythical one-minute barrier”.
And the high-octane, blistering drama of BBC2’s ratings behemoth Great British Bake Off final in which three men wearing pinnies each made 25 pink fondant fancies.
To think, some people thought the only macho TV viewing on Tuesday evening would be the football.
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate the holy matrimony of Chastity and Dan.
Would the congregation please turn to hymn number 273, Richard Wagner’s Wedding March, and sing the following:
Here comes the bride, here comes the bride, where has the sun gone, it’s all dark outside...
Funny that, because it was broad daylight when they walked into church, on Tuesday’s episode, and NASA hadn’t warned of any solar eclipses by the time they emerged into black of night on Wednesday’s hour-long Emmerdale Live.
And if you were wondering why Carl King looked so beaten up after the service, that brawl he’d had with brother Jimmy began around the same time as the wedding and lasted longer than it takes for Audley Harrison to throw a punch in a 15-rounder.
But that’s the thing about live anniversary soap specials. They’re ambitious and draw a huge audience tuning in purely in the hope of a cock-up.
So it will have been disappointing for the majority of viewers on Twitter sharing the sentiment: “I’m only watching for the mistakes. Who are these people and what are they doing?” to witness that, aside from the aforementioned planetary misalignment daylight issue, it went as smoothly as it could.
There were some missed marks here, a stumble there, at least three serious cases of overacting, the death rattle of two actresses giving birth, Betty fluffed a line, and Cameron didn’t bat an eyelid when he checked his digital watch and found the screen blank.
But nobody “did a Maslen”, as pioneered by EastEnders’ Jack Branning.
In fact, knowing as we all did in advance that a character was going to be killed off, I almost got distracted from trying to spot errors by the whodunit storyline.
It was a game of Cluedo where the suspects moved from Cameron, with the candlestick, in the chapel, to Chas, with the foam brick and dubbed sound effect, outside the camper van, to Annie Lennox the midwife, with the epidural, in the delivery room.
In the end, the bad guy got his just desserts and it was left nicely open-ended for the wrong person to take the rap.
So well done and happy anniversary, Emmerdale.
I’ll see you in another 40 years.
Tess Daly, on Sky Living’s truly dreadful Show Me Your Wardrobe, responding to the question: “Do you enjoy doing red carpet events?”
“No! I enjoy getting dressed up, having my hair and make-up done, but actually being there, with all the cameras on you, I just feel like a rabbit in the headlights.”
No, Tess, you were asked about red carpet events. Not about any given Saturday night in the autumn on BBC1.
ITV has tried and tested many a chat show host. Some have worked (Parky), some have been just okay (Wossy), and some have been Piers Morgan (Piers Morgan).
But never has a single episode been as entertaining as the impromptu Adrian Chiles Show, with special guests Roy Keane, Lee Dixon, and Gareth Southgate, with a wonderful cameo by Gabriel Clarke, live from Poland’s National Stadium in Warsaw, on Tuesday night.
An hour and 40 minutes of increasingly desperate waffle after the rain came, nobody had thought to close the roof, and England’s World Cup qualifying match wasn’t officially postponed until the pundits had used every possible combination of words in a footballer’s vocabulary.
All 37 of them.
And, despite reassurances from the Polish FA that the under-soil heating system would evaporate the lake within 30 minutes, everyone was an expert.
Chiles: “Why is nobody out there with a fork?”
Dixon: “I think the heating engineer needs to be called in.”
Keane: “The ref’s a clown. He should have been out there two hours before kick-off inspecting the pitch.”
Southgate: “I’m not buying their explanation about not being able to predict how much rain we’re going to have, not in this day and age of accurate satellite coverage.”
A by now exasperated Chiles: “Oh no, don’t tell me the ref’s coming back out again to throw the ball and watch it not bounce. What kind of miracle does he think has come to pass?”
Clarke was doing his best to find answers in the tunnel and grabbed an interview with someone in authority: “Why wasn’t the roof closed?”
“I don’t know. I’m only on the referees’ committee.”
The speculation, of course, was running wild. The players “might be listening to music”, they “might be taking on food and fluids”, and the match “might be rescheduled for next June”.
By the time FIFA announced it would take place the following day, all talk turned to only one subject.
Dixon: “We’re going underpants-buying in the morning for Roy.”
Southgate: “I’ve got a vision of Roy in Tarzan pants.”
And Chiles: “What do you want to happen now, Roy?”
Presumably to go back in time and pack an extra pair.
This week’s Couch Potato Spuduhate awards go to:
Johnny Ball being kicked out of Strictly before Aliona Vilani (you’re my favourite) could return from injury. Thanks a bunch, everyone.
ITV1’s This Morning turning into a daily carnival of Jimmy Savile grave-stamping.
Watchdog wasting everyone’s time telling Rolling Stones fans that tickets to their concerts are a bit on the pricey side.
ITV2 “supernatural comedy drama” (give me strength) Switch. Switch off.
And the fundamental, insurmountable flaw that beset Emmerdale’s live 40th anniversary special.