Friday 17 January 2020

Kirsty Blake Knox: Last gasp for shiny-floor TV dictator Simon Cowell?

New panel: Robbie, Ayda, host Dermot O'Leary, Louis T and Simon Cowell. Photo: Ian West/PA Wire
New panel: Robbie, Ayda, host Dermot O'Leary, Louis T and Simon Cowell. Photo: Ian West/PA Wire
Louis Walsh
The Mamma Mia 2 press tour
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

How the mighty are falling.

Remember when Simon Cowell was an untouchable shiny-floor dictator?

During The X Factor's golden era (the noughties), viewers couldn't get enough of watching pop wannabes hurl themselves like showbiz lemmings off a reality TV cliff into the Syco abyss.

For ITV, Cowell could do no wrong - he brought in serious advertisement wedge and appeared to have clout in pop circles and political spheres. Back in 2008, the then British prime minister Gordon Brown wrote letters to all the X Factor finalists, wishing them well. Surely he has better things to be doing in the middle of the financial crash?

Louis Walsh
Louis Walsh

Cowell was also adroit at shrugging off his TV flops - Red or Black?/ X Factor USA, and the truly dreadful Food Glorious Food.

But in the Year of our Lord 2017, ratings for The X Factor plunged to a historic low - an average of just 6.5 million a week. That may sound massive, but is a considerable drop when compared to the 14 million tuning in during its heyday.

It seems our appetite for plucky OAPs/ spunky teens/ last-chance-saloon-thirty-somethings with redemptive backstories has waned. It's a reality TV field that needs to lie fallow for a few years.

Unfortunately for ITV, they and Syco are now in the second year of a three-year X Factor contract. Cowell can't do much about the contestants applying, but the panel can be reworked.

And so, he let our very own Louis Walsh walk away, before bringing in a new panel consisting of ex-One Directioner Louis Tomlinson, Robbie Williams - back from Russia - and William's wife and former Days of Our Lives soap actress Ayda Field.

Far be it for me to suggest that Williams contractually stipulated his wife be roped into the show. But Ayda is a rather unusual choice of judge, to say the least.

Apart from marrying Williams, she doesn't appear to have any actual connection with the music industry.

Granted, she has clocked up some TV airtime since moving to the UK - mainly as a panellist on Loose Women.

There, she has broached a variety of subjects. These included convincing Robbie Williams to get his back waxed, discussing the social isolation that engulfs you when attending a party with Robbie Williams, and faking orgasms with Robbie Williams. No prizes for guessing her Mastermind specialist subject.

Sensing people may question her place on the panel, Robbie defended his wife's 'underdog judging status' at the launch this week. "Ayda is a member of the public, and they never get it wrong," he said.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, is it?

I'm also sceptical Robbie will be able to take a back-seat role, and won't spend the majority of the show rushing the stage to perform an impromptu rendition of 'Candy'. But the reason the inclusion of Robbie and Ayda (and to a lesser extent Louis T) stings is because there will be no Louis Walsh.

And Louis is reality TV gold. So, his compliments/criticism may have become a little familiar: ('You look like a pop star!'/ 'You could be a young Lenny Henry!'/ 'You're like something from a Blackpool variety show!').

But he is good at riling people up, will happily chuck glasses of water over contestants' heads, and ensures an Irish act always gets through. Let's not forget this is the man who gave us Jedward. Or perhaps we should forget that.

Perhaps Cowell thinks bringing in Robbie, Louis and Ayda will attract a younger audience. But they've flown the coup - happy watching highlights on YouTube.

By letting Louis go - and reducing the screen time of his partner in crime Sharon Osbourne - Cowell may have isolated his most loyal viewers, and hobbled the series before it begins.

Sexts and the most common mistakes of erotica

Where does he find the time? That was the first thing that crossed my mind when I heard that Tory MP Andrew Griffiths had sent 2,000 sex messages to two barmaids within the space of three weeks.

That's an average of 95 messages a day! It's almost more startling than the contents of the messages themselves. I said almost.

I'm not going to go into the detail - this is a family paper - but he made reference to all the following: Queen Elizabeth II's ill heath, public speaking, dressing women up as pigs (what is it with Tory MPs and pigs?), and the inconvenience of work meetings running over time. Griffiths has subsequently resigned, and apologised for his abysmal behaviour (his poor, poor wife was pregnant at the time).

In the UK, websites have been ranking the sexts from least to most disgusting, but would anyone's raunchy messages sound good when printed in the pages of red tops?

Writing anything remotely erotic is really tough.

I know this first-hand because when the 50 Shades of Grey book was released, my editor at the time sent me along to an X-rated writing course titled 'The Language of Seduction'.

It was taught by erotic novelist Evie Blake (no relation) who told me that I had "the perfect name" to segue into the genre.

"Someone called Kirsty Blake Knox should only write filthy things."

Evie was a great teacher and warned us of common erotica mistakes. "Nobody wants to hear about you shagging your boyfriend in the missionary position after Sunday lunch," she said, advising us to "keep things naughty".

She was also against using convoluted metaphors, or going into unnecessary descriptions of bodily fluids.

Towards the end of the seminar, one of my fellow pupils asked the million dollar question: "What's the best way to describe a willy?"

We were told length was a good option but we should use our imagination. Then we had to write a scene about someone's bottom. I couldn't do it. I blushed, and made an excuse when I was asked to read out my scene.

So part of me was impressed at the tenacity of Griffiths to keep going - 2,000 sexts - that's a novella right there.


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