The X Factor 2010: The Final, ITV1 | reviews, news & interviews
The X Factor 2010: The Final, ITV1
The X Factor 2010: The Final, ITV1
Cowell wins all round, but sweet baby Jesus that was awful television
Last week I suggested that The X Factor's rules may have been manipulated in order to lead to a more entertaining final week. I would like to apologise unreservedly for this suggestion, in the light of the absolute unremitting shower of dismalness that we had to sit through this weekend. Congratulations to the winner Matt Cardle and all - he seems like a nice chap, sings well sometimes, might even make a career of it – but sweet baby Jesus on a bendy bus, that was truly awful television. And, yes, millions of us sat absolutely glued to it for four hours of our weekends, hoping for some excitement.
Watch Rebecca Ferguson sing "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)"
One hardly knows where to begin with the awfulness of it, but let's get the good bits out of the way first. Seeing the generally soppy Scouser Rebecca Ferguson deliver an inspired and sultry take on the Eurythmics' “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” at the very last minute was exactly the kind of performance we watch the show for – bringing something new out of both singer and song, it kicked Twitter's #xfactor stream into a frenzy of “OMG”s, and may very well have been what edged her past boyband Wand Erection (sorry, One Direction) and into second place. There was a hilarious moment at the end, too, as the other contestants came on to congratulate Cardle, and 16-year-old Harry Styles from Wand - sorry, One Direction - appeared to whisper, “Think how much pussy you're gonna get” in his ear. Cue further Twitter overdrive.
What's Harry whispering to Matt?
But ultimately it no longer felt like a competition. The released phone-vote results show Cardle had it in the bag from the start, something which Simon Cowell, if not all the judges, will have known - and in any case, all three acts in the final have commercial potential. One Direction have the pubescent girl market sewn up for at least a couple of Top 10 singles; Ferguson could make a comfortable living as a smoky dad-friendly crooner in the Norah Jones mould; and Cardle is all set to fit into the “housewives' choice” slot in the middle market which the likes of James Morrison have so successfully colonised, although his previous musical endeavours (see video below) suggest he could yet surprise us. This means, though, that there was no chance of an embarrassment like previous no-hopers Steve Brookstein, who won in 2004, or 2007's Leon Jackson, so the sense of any result being a win for Simon Cowell was more palpable than ever, and the sense of drama was notably lacking. FOR FOUR HOURS.
Watch Matt Cardle's band Darwyn doing Deee-Lite
All of which would have been fine if they'd actually bothered to pretend. Fine, X Factor is a Cowell cash cow, as all the world recognises, and good for him if he's fine-tuned it so that he picks up a few more prime assets each year. But it's supposed to have some fun songs on too. This year has thrown up its fair share of decent performances in a rollercoaster of great and awful weeks, but apart from that one “Sweet Dreams” there was not a single performance this weekend, from contestants or guest stars, that was anything more than mediocre. One dreary mid-tempo plodding song after another, One Direction's inability to harmonise hammered home over and over, Rebecca over-reaching herself in tuneless production numbers, stars goofing around or looking bored, light shows more memorable than the performances... and always recaps, recaps, recaps. This is not the pop music television we want or need.
Possibly the nadir was Robbie Williams prancing and gurning with One Direction, like a man gripped by a mid-life crisis who'd taken Ecstasy at his son's 16th birthday party and tried to monopolise the karaoke. But the awkwardness of the entire studio trying to pass over the fact that megastar Rihanna, though one of the most beautiful women on the planet, cannot sing in tune was tooth-grinding viewing too. And, ungallant though it may be to comment on a lady's weight, the sight of a pudgy, unhappy-looking, very recently divorced Christina Aguilera going through the motions of duetting with Ferguson purely in the name of promoting her new movie was hardly "light" entertainment either.
And there in the midst of it all was endlessly hapless host Dermot O'Leary (pictured below), he of the material-miser tailor and over-wrought mannerisms. Maybe he's a lovely man in real life, but on screen he's the dictionary definition of “trying too hard”, and trips himself up constantly. From his inability to pronounce “ITV” on Saturday night, to the truly bizarre ad lib “from the mouths of babes!” after a Cowell comment on Sunday, he did a fine impression of a blithering fool.
But he really took the biscuit after the traditional song by failed auditionees, which this year seemed to have tipped over the edge into laugh-at-the-afflicted nastiness – we were no longer seeing lovable eccentrics having their moment in the spotlight, but gawping at a line-up of people with learning disabilities and personality disorders bawling sadly plus one drug-damaged prostitute (no, seriously) being lowered from the ceiling on a giant glittery mouth. “That”, said O'Leary, uncomfortably as ever, “is what makes Britain great.” Not, it's fair to say, his or The X Factor's finest hour.
So there we go. It's been quite a season – I almost feel punch drunk after the parade of freaks, kooks and gobbledegooks that arrived and got unceremoniously batted aside in the auditions and early stages, and the weeks like this in which almost every single performance was dismal, but I can still remember probably more really decent individual performances overall than in most series. But how much longer can we take the flagrant dissembling and manipulations, the auditions where Cowell appears to be utterly absent and dead behind the eyes, the no-hope joke contestants being put through the wringer for our vicious amusement, and still, like abused partners, keep coming back in the hope of a tender or genuinely inspiring moment?
Well, Cowell now has X Factor USA, which will inevitably be more about vocal talent, given the larger pool it has to draw on - but one imagines ITV will do pretty much anything to keep him aboard given that he's pretty much keeping them afloat, so presumably the UK version isn't going anywhere. But are we really so starved of great communal musical entertainment on TV that we need this in our lives? I fear we might be. See you next year, pop pickers...
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