“I think it’s time to face the music.”

Henry Mendoza discusses the X Factor and how it seems to be “less about finding really good singers, and more about bums-on-seats and money in Cowell’s pocket. “


X Factor is back for it’s 11th series

Ah, Saturday night TV.

Lovely. Time to sit down and with the family, and tune in for this week’s episode of Doct-…..

“Can we watch X Factor?”, pipes up my little sister.



Here we go. Yep, it’s that talent (ahem) show that grips the nation year after year, intent on finding Britain’s next big recording artist. The X Factor. Simon Cowell’s baby, it’s now been running for 11 consecutive years. (Feel old yet?)

It amazes me how after 11 (though it feels like a hundred) series in, the British public still swallow this rubbish. But not only do we watch it – it’s now a worldwide franchise. There’s an X Factor, USA, Australia and New Zealand, and (lord help us), it probably won’t stop there.

I’ll make a confession – when it first started broadcasting, I liked X Factor (shudder). I enjoyed watching it week after week, hearing people sing and watching their journeys as they progressed through the competition. It captured my imagination as it did everyone’s. It was the obvious successor to Pop Idol, that we’d all loved.

But around the time of the 5th or 6th series, myself and my Dad came to the realisation that we’d given several years of our lives to this programme, and got…not much back from it.

I’d spent at least 5 years obsessing over my favourite acts, but they were almost always a flash in the pan. Who remembers Robert, or Nikita, or Sean? (from the old days before Voiceover man shouted contestants first AND last names).

We’d become disillusioned. Simon Cowell was no longer ‘Mr. Nasty’. He was declaring acts that were distinctly average at best, ‘World Class’. Not only that, but after a while, the show seemed to be less about finding really good singers, and more about bums-on-seats and money in Cowell’s pocket. (Of course the older, wiser me now realises that was always the idea.)

Don’t believe me? One word: Jedward. Cowell had always made it known how annoying and talentless he thought they were. He voted ‘no’ to them in their first audition.

Fast forward to the live shows, which lord knows how they made it to, and Cowell gets the opportunity to send them home when they’re in the bottom two. But does he? Nope – he takes it to deadlock, and a decent singer, Lucie Jones, went home that week (probably because the public assumed she’d be safe).

That’s when I first started to realise Cowell was full of shit. He didn’t care about who was the better singer or who’d make the best recording artist. He just wanted ‘good telly’.

Simon Cowell. Photo: Syco

Of course, it’s not just the fact that the show lets acts through that shouldn’t have made it past the first round. It’s also those bloody clichés. Seriously, if I hear the phrases ‘You gave it 110%’, or ‘I want this so badly’ again, I’m going to be owing people some new TVs.

“One billion percent yes”. Your grasp of mathematics (and language) leaves a lot to be desired, judges…

“This is your last chance, isn’t it?” – Oh yeah, because the contestants aren’t crying enough already about how much they ‘really want this’, and you need some more tears before ‘When You Believe’ starts playing in the background.

“You look like a pop star”. Translation: Your voice is a bit pedestrian, but the boys/girls’ll love you.

I stopped watching X Factor just before Cowell left, and honestly didn’t feel like anything was missing from my life. I gave it another chance (at my sister’s request) a couple of years into Gary Barlow’s reign, and after five minutes realised it was even worse than before. More clichés than you could shake a stick at and a phenomenal amount of crap contestants getting four yeses.

Nearly ten million people a week continue to watch this farce. 10 million! That’s just ridiculous.

Here’s some advice – try not watching X Factor one year. At all. Just try it. When you pay hardly any attention at all to it, you’d be surprised at how easy it is to not care. You might hear the winner’s single on the radio, see a few newspaper headlines, but that’ll be it. It’s not like a drama where missing one series will stop you understanding the next.

Or, if this joke of a ‘reality’ show really must continue, here’s an idea on how to really shake things up.

How about, every time a contestant (or judge) says a cliché stock phrase that we’re so used to hearing – give them an electric shock. Not life-threatening – just mildly painful. Imagine it!

“How much do you want this?”
“It’s been my dream, ever since I was a little…”

“I didn’t like it, I l-..”

Come on, it’d be hilarious! Or at least make watching it more bearable. And before you tell me that’s not funny, or immoral, don’t tell me you don’t laugh at Total Wipeout.

But honestly, I think the show has had it’s day. And if it doesn’t drastically change it’s format up soon, well….

I think it’s time to face the music.


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