I’ve just returned from the press launch for The X Factor. As is always the case with these things, the journalists were on time, the organisers weren’t; it started later than originally stated. The venue was London’s ritzy Mayfair Hotel where we were greeted by the lovely ladies at talkbackThames, one of the companies behind the show. Champagne, Bucks Fizz and various soft drinks kept us happy while we waited. Everyone was making quick surreptitious looks around the room to see if they recognised anybody and sure enough old faves like Boyd Hilton from Heat and Jacqui Stephen from everywhere (or so it seems) were in da house.
We were there to grill the judges but more importantly, we got a sneak press screening peek at the first X Factor show going out this Saturday at 7.40pm. As has been widely publicised, this year Simon Cowell and Sharon Osbourne are joined by Kylie’s little (and less successful) sister Dannii Minogue and, returning to the series after his sacking and reinstatement, Louis Walsh. In the premier show, we also hear from an American geezer named Brian Friedman. He will put his experience as a dancer and choreographer to use styling the finalists’ performances (he’s worked with the likes of Britney and Mya). Dermot O’Leary takes over as The X Factor’s new host, offering a shoulder for all those freaky rejects to cry on. And this change is definitely a welcome one as Kate Thornton got on my last nerve. This year, The X Factor’s age limit drops to 14 so don’t be too surprised if you see even more showbiz mums vicariously living out their dreams through their kids. Contestants will be split into Boys (14–24s), Girls (14–24s), 25 and Overs and Groups.
As soon as I downed my drink, I headed off to the screening room, eager to avoid the mad dash for seats. As expected, national press and magazines didn’t have to worry about rushing their apparatifs as spaces were reserved for them. Us oiks (otherwise known as non-national press and magazines – and always web) were allocated the middle and back. The event was over-subscribed and the scramble to find seats delayed it all further. Eventually chairs were brought in from outside and we could begin.
Sharon Osbourne and Brian Friedman were absent, but the remaining show staples were introduced to us. First, the ubiquitous Fearne Cotton (the only TV show she’s not presenting these days is the news) followed by the genial, bouncy Dermot O’Leary (does he have springs on his feet?). Dannii Minogue looked tanned and glam and provided a stark contrast to the pale, decidedly un-glamorous Louis Walsh (hugely cheered for some bizarre reason). Finally Simon Cowell, he of the square head, square hair and square chest, stepped into the room. He was followed a couple of seconds later by a massive, bald bodyguard who looked like an inflated, taller version of Dr Evil’s Mini-Me. Simon Cowell was exactly as he is on all those talent shows he rakes in mega-dosh from. Unerringly so. I half expected him to turn to me and say something like, "Your mother doesn’t love you if she’s convinced you that you can sing."
And so to the show. An embargo prevents me from revealing too much. However, I can safely say that if you’re an X Factor fan, you’re in for a treat. Dermot O’Leary erases painful memories of Kate Thornton, but Brian Friedman is somewhat disadvantaged by the fact that nobody here knows him from Adam. Speaking personally, I do not have an Adam among my family, friends or acquaintances, but I still know my non-existant Adam better than The X Factor’s Brian. The Louis and Simon double act feels as good as a comfortable old pair of slippers and Dannii Minogue isn’t as bad as I thought she’d be (Shazzer is just Shazzer).
The audition stage has lost none of its compulsiveness – it’s still the best part of The X Factor. London auditions were held at my beloved Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium (ta very much for the funds Simon – we desperately need to reinforce our back line). Thousands of hopefuls squeezed into a tiny pocket of Islington; the only time I’ve seen more chavs in N7 is when we play Chelsea. There is still the familiar mixture of the sadly deluded, the crackpots, the tuneless, the sob stories, the auditionees who are clearly a sandwich or two short of a picnic, the ‘what-the-hell-was-that?’ freaks and the genuinely talented. Look out for a brother and sister act – hilarious! I can say no more than that. Two singers in particular stood out for the right reasons; one very young and one very unexpected. I definitely feel that the eventual winner may come from this first show – it was that strong an opener. The X Factor is sooooooo slickly produced and edited, you’ll never have a better time having your emotions so shamelessly manipulated – laughter one minute, tears the next. In short, must-see television returns to Saturday night.
Looking forward to it? Dislike it intensely? Leave a comment here.
Today I am mostly lovin’ – Virgin Media for buying some classic Brookside episodes and making them available on demand. "Our Damon", "Our Kid", shell-suits, "da bizzies", "da leccy", ‘taches – ah, memories.
Today I am mostly hatin’ – The Morrisons adverts with Denise Van Outen. If I hear her going on about fresh bread one more time, I’ll tell them where to stick it…
MSN Editor Coops