Monday 19 March 2018

Last night's TV: X Factor

(L-R) Louis Walsh, Tulisa Contostavlos, Kelly Rowland and Gary Barlow
(L-R) Louis Walsh, Tulisa Contostavlos, Kelly Rowland and Gary Barlow

Noirin Hegarty

If you had superpowers and could peek simultaneously into the living rooms of Ireland last night you would have seen that one experience united hundreds of thousands of them with millions more in the UK. The X Factor returned.

The new judges cut unfamiliar figures at the start. No Cheryl Cole, no Danni Mingoue and no Simon Cowell, Just a cosmetically enhanced Louis Walsh for comfort. It felt wrong.

But not for long.

Gary Barlow, Take That's original fat boy, now much slimmed down and the musical genius behind the boy band phenomenon, set the tone. "I'm going to be brutally honest. I think people's perception of me is about to change." He didn't disappoint.

The other new judges Kelly Rowland, ex Destiny's child and Tulisa Contostavios of hip hop outfit N-Dubz offered a hint of interesting weeks to come, although they didn't dominate to the same comic effect as Barlow did.

"What are you going to tell your grandchildren?" he asked the first contestant, teenage lothario Frankie Cocozza who showed us the tattos of seven girls' names on his bum. "Why would my grandchildren be looking at my bum," Cocozza retorted.

The eighteen-year-old cited his ambitions as to become famous, have money, cars, show off, but mainly to sleep with lots of women, Luckily he had a great voice too.

A slightly scary Kitty Brucknell (26) came next, followed by a truly awful Sondesh Kumar (24) and then a horrendous housewife Ellen Chetcuti (47). She gave Barlow his first put down of the night: "My wife is a dancer. I'm attracted to dancers. Unfortunately I like singing as well," he quipped.

He was on a roll. "I think it would be far too much work to get you ready for this year, and next year," he told Wendy Davis (30). "So you're from Essex and you're a slapper," to Roxy Yarnold (19) and "It's a long time since I've had a strange leg around my neck," to Goldie Cheung, an impossibly young looking 48-year-old who puked into a plastic bag on camera before taking to the stage, The terror in the judges' eyes as she gyrated around them was one of the comedy highlights of the evening.

Each year between August and December X Factor divides the nation into those who consider it a pretty poor cranked up karaoke show and those who won't go out on a Saturday night until Christmas.

Janet Devlin (16) from Co Tyrone is one of those contestants who answers all the critics with raw talent. She captured all four judges and the twitterati, commenting on the show from all corners of the British isles, with a transfixing performance.

But within moments rapper George Gerasimou (19) had broken the spell with a rank rendition that prompted Barlow's best insult of all.

Gerasimou had originally appeared on the show in 2009 and reacted badly to the judge's criticism. This time he was at pains to explain that he was a different person and had grown up.

Except that he hadn't. "You've matured like a bad curry mate," Barlow told him just before Gerasimou freaked out calling Contostavios a c**t and "the scumbag who replaced Cheryl."

"No dogs allowed. No dogs allowed," he roared. "If I'd known they were I'd have brought my alsation."

Cue Dermot O'Leary, lauded later on Twitter for his chivalry. "Watch your mouth. Don't call girls that," he warned him and won the hearts of a female audience.

By the end of it all we were asking Cheryl who? Such is the fickle world of talent TV that she seems jaded already compared to the fresh girl power of Rowland and Contostavios. Simon Cowell and Danni Minogue also seem from a different era, Perhaps even the most ardent fans were suffering from X Factor fatigue without even knowing it.

As Gerasimou might say - whatever!

The new line up works. All the big advertisers are signing up to the breaks and the talent show without it's star and creator is even better. It's actually about the talent.

Four months of Saturday nights are yet to come and this year there are going to be more spin-offs - bootcamps in front of live audiences, filming at the X Factor house and 3-hour-long live shows.

By curtain down on the opening night only two questions remained unanswered: how much botox has Louis Walsh had? and will Frankie Cocozza try to get Janet Devlin's name on his bum?:

X Factor - TV3 and UTV Saturdays, 8pm

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