Roll up! Roll up...for the X Factor torture chamber
X FACTOR bosses came up with a new way to torture contestants as the show reached 'boot camp' stage last weekend. They stopped short of pulling finger nails out with pliars as 16-year-olds were put through sheer emotional hell for our entertainment.
The devil himself couldn't have come up with a more fiendish idea. Instead of simply sending those who failed to meet judges' approval home with their tails between their legs, some were made play a particularly cruel game of musical chairs on the side of the stage. A seat on one of six chairs meant safe passage to the next round, but until everyone had performed, anybody could be replaced.
One young lad appeared to shed tears through the entire ordeal. He's made it through but we must fear for his emotional state. Ireland's Melanie McCabe, who was putting herself through the horrors of X Factor for a fourth time, broke down onstage...but also advanced to judges' houses.
They weren't alone. There were more tears on the boot camp stage than a maternity ward on a very busy day.
There are people who would have particularly enjoyed this emotional rollercoaster. Probably the same people who used to watch Ski Sunday in the hope somebody would crash through the barrier and maybe break a leg or behead a spectator.
X Factor has been running now since 2004 and faces a challenge to reinvent itself every year. This latest incarnation would appear to have taken the tear-factor to the limit, but who knows. Maybe next year they will actually physically maim the wannabes.
I'd jokingly suggest replacing the chairs with trapdoors to 20-foot drops, but it might give someone ideas.
There are signs that X Factor's grip on autumn TV ratings is beginning to loosen. The show is now definitely playing second fiddle to the BBC's ratings-topping Strictly Come Dancing which pulled 1.4 million viewers more in the UK on Saturday night.
Clearly, as eighties band ABC put it, tears are not enough.
• I don't know why but stories that confirm One Direction's status among the biggest stars on the planet still continue to surprise me.
The latest one is news that they have topped this year's 21 Under 21 list produced by America's Billboard magazine, ranking music's most influencial youngsters under the age of 21.
The 1D boys knocked Justin Bieber off the top spot, his fall blamed on the negative press surrounding some of his bad behaviour during the year.
There's every chance One Direction will be there again next year...if they can refrain from throwing all the toys out of the pram and maybe punching a few photographers.