How the X Factor can be saved.


I have always loved the X Factor. Sadly, I now love it in the kind of way that mothers still have to love their children even if they become murderers.

Nothing used to give me more joy than defending my pop culture obsessions from the real music bores. Obviously, I was smarter than all of them (because how can anyone who believes in the concept of "guilty pleasures", or looks down on someone for enjoying something, be anything other than extremely stupid?) so I would take great pleasure in using my searing wit to tear them limb from limb (read: yell at them repeatedly and passionately that they were idiots). Everyone in my life knows I love the X Factor - my whole social media branding revolves around it, after all - so this year, like every year, I had people come to me and say that it was rubbish and transparent and fake and British television deserved better. The difference was that this year, unlike every other year, I didn't have much of a leg to stand on when arguing with them.

The X Factor's going to be back in 2016  - applications are already open, if you fancy joining the circus - but its long term future is already under doubt. This is what I, as a self-appointed X Factor expert, feel needs to change before even the gibbering fans like me abandon it.

1. Less studio audience.

Check out this scene from the Six Chair Challenge this year:

Watching a group of people jeer as someone's hopes and dreams are dashed is unpleasant viewing. I used to argue that in signing up for the X Factor, one must be prepared for rejection - but then again, in all our lives we must be prepared for rejection, but we aren't all subject to a baying mob when someone turns us down for a date or we do badly in a job interview. A particularly nasty touch this year was the audience's habit of holding up their fingers during the six chair challenge to indicate which contestant should be booted out.

Taking it back from the Six Chair Challenge - which seems particularly cruel as by this point all contestants are pretty sure they have at least some chance - it has never and will never be entertaining to watch potentially mentally vulnerable people who never really had a chance be laughed at by an audience of thousands during the auditions.

I would propose a audience shouldn't be used at all until the live shows. Cruel and unnecessary.

2. Less random crap in space of actual television.

Returning to my live blog for Digital Spy of the final episode, I note that by the time eight minutes had passed two recaps had taken place. This is, to be frank, ridiculous. Short recaps have a time and a place, to remind viewers of what was actually sung or give them a brief overview (if they had been watching Strictly over the Performance 1 Graveyard Slot like any reality viewer with half a brain these days), but their use this year is becoming ridiculous and tiresome. I know heaps of people that have X Factor on Series Link and then just fast forward through all the Random Stodgy Crap the next day to get to the actual performances. X Factor used to be the pinnacle of watch-and-tweet-it-now-or-no-one-will-care-what-you-think event television, and it should not be aiming to be a programme that's happily caught up on ITV Player the next day.

Lest we also forget other 'humorous' interludes this series such as the 'judges' banter' (GAG) and 'Caroline and Olly continuing to claim that they've never got off with each other, whereas we all know that can't be true as they're COLLEAGUES and also MALE AND FEMALE, alright public, let's make this situation as UNCOMFORTABLE AS POSSIBLE!!!' Please, do away with it.

Perhaps with this stuff cut out, we could make the episodes less of a never-ending slog to get through - and maybe even have just one per week?

3. Stop making interesting and engaging young potential popstars drone through ballads ad nauseum.

This week 2 performance by Louisa was fantastic. Watch and you better make sure you enjoy because....

....THERE ISN'T A SINGLE OTHER ONE LIKE IT! Yes, following this live show performance, showing that she was a very talented and potentially interesting young popstar, the People's Angel Louisa Johnson did not get a single other uptempo song choice.

It's worth noting that despite Louisa's performance staging and song choices all being presented to us as though she had arrived to save the general viewing public from our sins, she still only reached number 9 in the charts with her winner's single. It's worth wondering if it could have all been a little different if she'd been able to show her talent and range and maybe release a fun original uptempo as her winner's single instead.

4. Stop pretending it's more relevant than it actually is.

Once upon a time, the X Factor was really important and really relevant and really cool and everyone watched it and everyone talked about it. This is no longer the case. People at large are going off the X Factor; it's now chiefly discussed by a group of Twitter pop-culture diehards and their mums. We don't need to pretend it's the biggest TV show in the country anymore and that this is the television event in the year, because it obviously isn't. It would be a lot less embarrassing for everybody if it would accept this.

5. Bring back the wind tunnel makeovers.

Image: Sugarscape

As the great saying goes, sometimes a photograph of Mary Byrne speaks a thousand words.

6. Week one theme: song from last week's top 40.

I've been saying this for years but it must happen. Hilariously, this year week one of the live shows was given the theme 'This is Me', and several contestants were then proceeded to give songs that, as they admitted cheerfully in their VTs, they had never heard before. It seems the X Factor no longer even cares how transparent it is.

7. Decide once and for all whether we're trying to make an entertaining television show or trying to find a great popstar.

Of course the two don't have to be mutually exclusive and in an ideal world they would fit together. But, however, this is not an ideal world, and this series along with our 4th Impacts and our Louisa Johnsons we had our Antons and our Laurens and our Maxes(?!) to add 'personality' to proceedings. There's no denying that all of these people are talented - of course they are - but it's pretty bloody obvious which contestants are ultimately most likely to be signed up by Syco. So why bother?

If we're trying to make an entertaining television show, that's fine! That's so totally fine! But stop promising the world to people that both you and the audience know will never be delivered it.

8. Maybe take a year off.

When people like me, who have literally built an online persona on jumping on the sofa with excitement every time a result goes to deadlock, get bored (I mean, the show went to deadlock pretty much every week this series), perhaps we need some time off. The X Factor will have been on for twelve years by the end of the next series - it's the same age as Amy Barlow on Coronation Street, who's now making amusing one-liners and even the odd emotional aside. Maybe it needs a little holiday to show everyone just how much they miss it come Q4 2017.

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