Sunday 18 February 2018

Last night’s TV: The X Factor

It’s not hard to see why X Factor is not attracting viewers this year says Diarmuid Doyle

If you’re a 45-year old man with an average singing voice and you’re competing in a major talent show against a collection of mostly young, mostly attractive contestants – some of whom can hold a tune – what’s the best approach to take?

Until this weekend’s X Factor (ITV, TV3), probably nobody would have suggested dressing that man as a geisha and getting him to sing a Kylie Minogue song.

But so successful was Johnny Robinson is his role as a Japanese Kylie that, despite being one of the favourites for the axe, he sailed through last night’s results show. Even Minogue tweeted her approval.

He may well be this year’s Jedward – making up in a winning personality what he lacks in natural singing talent.

Not that being a less than gifted crooner is a rarity in this year’s contest. Last night’s show finished with boy band Nu Vibe and 18-year-old Frankie Cocozza singing for survival after their poor performances on Saturday.

Nu Vibe’s horrendous dance version of U2’s With Or Without You earned the wrath of just about everyone who heard it – “no vibe for me”, said Gary Barlow – while Cocozza’s decision to sing Coldplay’s The Scientist was equally bizarre.

They were no better in the sing off last night.

Nu Vibe were eventually axed after a flat and out-of-tune rendition of a Cheryl Cole song, but it could easily have been Cocozza, who murdered Daniel Merriweather’s Red before being saved by the judges on the basis of his potential.

“It will be a long time before you’re singing a survival song [again]”, Barlow said. We shall see.

This year’s X-Factor has been the least successful in many years in attracting viewers and it’s not hard to see why.

Too many of the contestants are average singers, which means that it will another four or five weeks at least before it becomes a genuine contest between acts with the potential to win and make a successful career for themselves.

(Janet Devlin from Co Tyrone is one of those. The 16-year-old aced her version of Can’t Help Falling In Love With You on Saturday, dedicating it to her grandfather, who died last week. She’s been criticised for singing only ballads, but she’ll have plenty of other opportunities to do something more upbeat).

Reports this morning suggest that Simon Cowell - in America for The X-Factor there - is having transatlantic kittens about the state of the British version, which was watched by 2.3 million fewer British viewers on Saturday than the same stage last year.

During the half-hour it went head to head with The X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing on BBC was watched by one million more viewers. Last night’s figures were expected to be equally bad. The Irish figures will be available later this week.

“Say what you like about Simon”, one insider is quoted as saying, “but he spends ages dithering over the tiny details to make sure everything is perfect. There is no way he would have sanctioned some of those song outfits or choices”. He has, apparently, gone “ballistic”.

On the basis of what we saw last night and on Saturday, he’s right to be worried, although the judges are as big a problem as the acts.

Barlow has been trying to recreate himself as the new Cowell, but he’s simply not nasty enough, his bitchy one-liners lacking in the kind of zing that could turn him into a watchable hate figure.

Tulisa Constostavlos looks as miserable as a wet Wednesday in Navan, constantly on the verge of tears at how bad her acts are (Nu Vibe were one of hers).

Kelly Rowland seems pleasant enough, but her you-go-girl American optimism is starting to wear thin already. (That said, she’s a bit of a diva backstage by all accounts).

Louis Walsh, as usual, is just doing his own thing, plodding along in Louis World trying to uncover another cabaret act like Jedward to make a few shillings from. And in Johnny Robinson, of course, he may have found one.

The result of all that is that the viewer has become an afterthought.

Saturday’s show was a battle of the bland. Last night’s results programme was lacking excitement or tension. It would be obvious nonsense to suggest that The X Factor’s days are numbered, but it is in need of a shake-up.

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