Friday 23 February 2018

Last night’s TV: The X Factor

Gary’s love of man-cleavage, hit and miss performances, ultra glam locations – the Judges’ House episodes delivered on every front, writes Claire O’Mahony

Three hours seems like an inordinate proportion of your weekend to give to X Factor. But once you minus the ad breaks - and the substantial periods of time that contestants spend weeping on screen - the last two nights amounted to a perfectly digestible slice of reality TV.

The thirty-two acts jetted off for the Judges’ House episodes, although strictly speaking, Louis’s lot, the over 25s, didn’t exactly do it in style as they had to fly to Barcelona via no-frills airline easyJet. The boys, meanwhile, were off to join Gary in LA, which is where he ‘found himself’, after being dumped by his label. “I came here in search of who I was again. This city is buzzing with creatives,” Gary solemnly said, to the surprise of everyone who thought LA was only populated by Will Smith, actors-stroke-waiters and boob jobs. The groups headed to the Greek isle of Mykonos and Tulisa, while the girls met Kelly in her hometown of Miami. The tourist boards of these respective cities must be incredibly happy as all four places looked picture-postcard amazing.

Locations aside, the guest judges added a pleasing element of glamour. Tulisa had Jessie J, arriving on crutches – what a trooper – and Kelly enlisted the fabulous Jennifer Hudson (we want her manicurist’s number). Louis, it is fair to say, lucked out on both accounts: firstly, by drawing the never sexy, over-25s and secondly by being saddled with Sinitta. One can only assume that her best friend, Simon Cowell, was the sole reason behind her appearance because in terms of kudos, a one-hit wonder from the 80s really doesn’t cut it as a hard-hitting judge, even if she did once date Brad Pitt. But it was Gary’s sidekick, Robbie Williams, who stole the show. Whatever their previous differences, the two former Take Thaters are clearly on very matey terms now. Robbie arrived to the house dressed only in palm leaves – what’s not to love? –and delivered one of the most brilliantly cruel lines ever about one hopeful: “He sings like his mum just turned his Xbox off.”

Tulisa got a bit of a hospital pass in having to mentor the groups, which has never produced an outright X Factor winner. But this year, it seems to be a particularly strong crew so she’s in with a fighting chance, at least in terms of talent. However if her acts were being judged on their monikers alone, they’d all be sent home. Nuvibe, Rythmix or 2Shoes don’t scream ‘credible’ or ‘cool’ as they do ‘eurodance’.

Better known for his anodyne pronouncements than any piercing insights, Louis did for once ‘nail it’ when he said of his over 25s,” They’re so diverse and there’s so much personality.” Too true – from loveable oddball, Johnny Robinson to the alarming Kitty Brucknell and the marvelously out-there Goldie Cheung (now, sadly departed, with barmaid Sami Brookes taking her place in the live show instead) there’s so much happening with this group, they arguably deserve a TV show of their own. In the main, none of them look like commercially viable, chart-storming possibilities but that’s what makes them so interesting and so endearing.

There were certainly some surprise departures from last night’s show. We were made to wonder about Gary’s judgment on two counts. There’s his continued questionable sartorial dedication to Simon Cowell-esque scoop neck t-shirts, something that has filtered down to all of the boys in his group (Frankie Cocozza’s version verged on the offensive). Then, getting rid of Joe Cox and Luke Lucas? Their LA performances mightn’t have been especially amazing but the two, especially Joe, were more interesting than his final selection.

Dublin girl Melanie McCabe got the boot (but at least Tyrone girl Janet Devlin is keeping the Irish flag flying) and Jade Richards, the lovely Scottish girl with a beyond-powerful voice, was also kicked to the kerb. Thankfully, we’re also left with Sophie, who has buckets of potential.

Tulisa went a bit off piste and dumped bootcamp group, The Risk, and then brought three of them back, plus Charlie from The Keys. They’re still called The Risk though. It’s hard to keep up.

Possibly the most brilliant thing about the last two nights’ viewing was Jonjo Kerr and his hardcore posse of supporters. The 27-year-old singing soldier said that if he made it to the live shows, the 100 men in his infantry promised to get ‘Vote for Jonjo’ tattooed on their bum cheeks. He didn’t want to let the lads down. And guess what? He didn’t. He’s through and some tattoo artist based close to the Yorkshire Regiment is going to clean up financially. Roll on next week’s live shows.

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