Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Exaggeration atop hype atop a table

The X Factor, the annual search for a new pop star, piggybacked a show called Pop Idol onto TV and ever since the received wisdom has been, it's great entertainment for the masses and a terrific opportunity for young talented singers to become stars almost overnight. Except, for the most part, they don't. Go on, name all the winners since 2005, in order, along with their top ten hits. No, I couldn't either.

It's a juggernaut show for ITV and one that will run at least another three years - the length of Simon Cowell's new contract. Its supporters claim it's harmless entertainment, it's detractors point to the plastification of music. I wholly agree with the latter but having produced a fair few hours of mindless TV entertainment myself, I'm not averse to a little mindless pap.

I'll sit and happily pass judgment, 'that was flat', 'that was brilliant' (the latter after everything Rebecca has sung - what a great voice). I rage that the judges never manage to couch anything they say in musical terms, no-one is every behind the beat or flat in their comments. The closest they get is the occasional mention of 'tuning issues'. But this isn't the kind of show where anything real ever happens.

If I was producing the show, I'd be worried.

From the baying crowd to the judges power of continued participation, tears, tantrums, in-fights, extraordinary costumes and a PR machine that leaks (makes up) stories all week only to have Dermot O'Leary commiserate with the victims on Saturday, the whole thing is starting to seriously wobble under the weight of its own internal hype.

Hype is not dissimilar to excessive swearing in comedy routines. If your first joke contains half a dozen f-words you've not got anywhere else much to go for the rest of the set. If every element of the X Factor lays hype upon hype where is there left to go? The Set is bigger and better than every before, the lighting more dazzling, the entrance of the Gods, sorry, Judges is now a religious moment, the VT introductions cut faster with more and more clips and costume changes piled higher and higher and Voice Over Man is running out of hyperbole - "Five million this...." "Twenty billion trillion that". Christ. Where will it end?

This last week we saw the introduction of extra staging. The studio stage is now not high enough. Now the set designers need to place performers on higher and higher platforms. I lost count of the number of people standing on perspex rostrums. Soon no-one in the studio will be able to see the contestants and guest because they'll be hovering two hundred feet above the studio floor.

But I'll keep watching until somebody's head explodes.

Oh, and can someone please tell Louis Walsh that being a Diva isn't a good thing.

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