Thursday, September 29, 2011

Josh Slings Burritos And Drew Wows In La-La Land

Chicago and Seattle auditions. What a great show! Somehow the producers have done a much sharper, well-paced job than the Brits. Yes, there are the annoying shots of Steve Jones as a passenger in a truck or looking increasingly unshaven and uncomfortable with contestants before and after (he really has got a hill to climb if he's going to compete with the Seacrest standard). But, yes, yes, yes, we're getting good glimpses of some of those who will make it through the next few rounds.


In fact, I have a feeling we might have seen a couple of Final contenders today, and that's saying something. A great start with Brock & Makenna. A name like a department store that will have to be changed for the Scottish market to avoid confusion with badgers or some kind of nasty injury - but at least we remember them. Nice wholesome couple who sang well. A bit bland but they've got potential, especially if they can get it together rather than behaving like a couple whose really strict parents tell them how terribly bad kissing can be. I can even see Simon stealing the girl and dumping the boy if he's short of talent for the solo Girls.

Kim followed, leading the mercifully brief burst of the crap section. Dressed in what looked like a small scarf around the middle of a pretty massive frame you just had to thank Velcro that it stayed on as the very ex-opera singer wobbled dreadfully.

Some old woman came on to audition for the Judge job. Had someone already told her Cheryl was getting the sack?

More trouble with names for me as Skyelor came on to bring us back to the talent bit. Loved his "I came too far to stop now" as the music stopped in the middle of his track. Nice, straight guy who could well be a shoe-in for the Live Shows.

Mark Jay Mark couldn't make his mind up what his name was which was more than a little worrying for someone studying for a Ph.D. However, with comments like "I want to destroy the Top 40" and being the first ever contestant in any music competition I can recall to use the word algorithm he was going to be either totally awful or brilliant. Announcing that he'd be doing Creep, I thought the "Fitting" remark by LA Reid (or was it Simon?) a bit out of order. To his own backing track, which was good, he put on a totally cool performance and could bring some unpredictability to some future shows as no-one will know what to expect. Three instant yesses from LA Reid, Cheryl and Paula but either I missed Simon's response or they didn't show it. Interesting, if they didn't.

Paula then went into some strange world, inspired by Mark Jay Mark, and some clever editing brought all the weirder acts in quick succession thereafter. One mentioned what sounded like SYCO Fairies which wasn't an ad for the Cowell company but something about psycho-fairies.

Duane appears as what I imagine a psycho-fairy would look like with an art rock number. Paula complements him or her on their design talent but no-one mentions the singing. "Simon, do you like puppies?" asked Paula for absolutely no obvious reason at all. Simon takes a break and announces to the camera that they're all in La-la Land, so completing very nicely this bizarre section.

Arin Ray gets one of those brief flash spots and looked popular with the audience and walks off with four yesses. Over 30, so may be heading for the Judges' Houses where we'll see more.

The first hour ends with Josh Crajcik who slings burritos, whatever they are. We definitely need subtitles in the UK. Looking pretty unkempt and tattily dressed, we had no idea what to expect. What we got was a superb version of At Last in one amazing audition. Almost a SuBo moment. This guy is a definite for the Live Shows in my view and makes the Over 30s competition quite interesting. He's got a great laugh and ended a great show. Almost all the over ten second slots were of genuine talent and we didn't have to squirm at rubbish and wonder why they were wasting good TV time. X Factor UK eat your burritos out!


I was beginning to wish I hadn't written the preceding paragraph as a dreadfully large pink couple appeared. The Good Girls were neither. One had apparently written a screenplay about Simon some years back that he knew about and I'm not so sure this wasn't a performance designed to be featured in some future production of How we appeared on X Factor or something similarly dire. They attempted to do a track that must have had Marvyn Gaye turning over and over in his grave and breaking wind at the same time. Maybe that explained the hurricanes and earthquakes around at the time of these auditions.

At the completely opposite extreme we met Drew Rynewicz. 14, With the obligatory "Wow" from LA Reid. She was "really cool" and "totally" whatever which was almost refreshing after all the old people. Seeing the parents' names on the overlay during the preview, though, was a good hint that we might be watching someone who'll be back again. And, boy, was that so! My prediction for not just the Live Shows but a Final Four. Fabulous. Reminded me of the current UK front-runner, Janet Devlin. Possibly better.

Peet came along next and you kinda feel sorry for him, not for the name but as he clearly isn't going to get his dream of being a teen idol just yet. Pity, a nice guy but not a winner.

4Shore, a group at last, proved a big hit with LA Reid doing something he wrote for BoyzIIMen. Dodgy start was quickly overlooked and they looked professional and sounded good once they'd got it together. In such a void of groups so far, they could do well.

Elaine Gibbs did the Aretha thing - one of the few so far. I'd expected loads of church singers belting it out but, like the cowboys, conspicuous by their absence in what we're shown in these auditions. She's followed by a pretty girl called Francesca who also gets through but doesn't really set the stage alight. Francesca's followed by flashes of people getting yesses which I suppose make us feel that there'll be plenty for the judges to choose from at Bootcamp but you do have to wonder why they bother. A chap called Tiger with a big voice scrapes in too.

Frank Sinatra makes a reappearance in the form of Philip Lomax. Well, his hat and confidence at least. This guy looks like a reliable performer and could be different enough and look good on the Live Shows and get a good few girls' votes.

Some more pretty girls don't get Nicole or Paula's approval - the Pink Stilettos look a bit disappointed having done nothing particularly wrong and Ivana Steelman is left standing looking a bit confused as Nicole decides to relive her Popster audition for some reason best known to herself.

This session ends with a girl called Tiah looking just a little frightening for my taste and I was about to write that she wouldn't be joining the Pias, Thias or any other singing -ias in getting famous when Tiah Wars break out between the judges. Simon is adamant that she should go through whilst Paula and Nicole don't get whatever it is he sees. When you think of all the rubbish they have put through, and it doesn't exactly cost them much to send them to Bootcamp either, it would have seemed simplest just to nod her through and get on with life. Maybe they hadn't got anything else to show and needed to draw out time for TV.

All in all, though, still no cowboys but one great show and X Factor UK producers watching could usefully take note!

Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?

As the auditions roll on in X Factor USA (and my take on the first of this week's shows is coming up next), it's clear that there's a mass of the Great and Good to be sorted out in later shows. I won't mention the Pointless, Pathetic or Plain participants. Oh, too late, I just have.

In the UK show, we've just been through what they call 'Bootcamp'. that's a very appropriate word - for both reasons. In X Factor USA they'll probably call it Fireflake. It's the sort of opposite of The Apprentice where many candidates seem to try their hardest not to impress but, remarkably, still get through.

It's been a really crazy time with 200 being culled in two hours' viewing to 32, eight who'll be whisked off to each of the Judges 'Houses' (or island, condo or somewhere they've borrowed with a pool and a large sofa to cuddle losers on). Three or four will be completely mad but predicted to make good television. Of our 32, the 'chosen' twelve for the Live Shows include some acts we've hardly seen at all, and several who were sent home in earlier shows! Three of the Groups are made up from solo contestants who didn't make it as 'Girls' or 'Boys'. You just have to hope they get counselling from SYCO at some point.

It's all going to be fun, of course, but don't get too excited yet if your favourite gets through (or depressed if they don't)!

Lastly for now, bearing in mind Scotty and Lauren's success in American Idol I was expecting to see lots of Country acts but so far I can't recall anyone obvious in that genre being shown getting four nods from the judges. Maybe they're saving them all up for a Lone Simon Blues Special.

Monday, September 26, 2011

X Factor UK: Bootcamp 2 - The final 32 selected (and it's not who you thought)

Even if you paid attention during the second Bootcamp show and carefully listened to the judges, Olly and Caroline on Xtra Factor you still wouldn't have got the right list of acts going through to the Judges' Houses stage. In fact, you wouldn't have even seen Holly Ripton before but there she is - in the Girls last 8. And who's that with her? Sarah Watson. Who? Uh huh - another you won't recognise.

The shows did, though, at last, show us most of the chosen acts and enough of them actually performing to convince us either that they well deserved their places abroad for a few weeks or didn't but they're going anyway and we can just hope that they don't make the final 3 and appear on the live shows when idiots could start voting for them and they might stay even longer.

You needed to watch The Xtra Factor  to get the best information in what is proving to be a considerably better production than in previous years. 

So, here are the (possibly!) last 32 acts for X Factor UK 2011. If there are no more surprises then these should be cut down to a final 12 so this is as far as 5 acts in each set will go. 

Girls (Kelly Rowland)

Misha, Janet and Jade are the likely Live Show stars and I have a feeling that Misha and Jade will give us all plenty to giggle about in tweets about clothing.

Boys (Gary Barlow)

Frankie and James are the front runners in the Boys but every one except John Wilding and Luke Lucas are strong contenders and all of them seem to be able to perform well.

Groups (Tulisa)

Goodness knows what is happening in Group Land! The only original groups to get through are Estrella, The Keys, Girl v Boy and 2 Shoes. Thankfully Kendro didn't make it. So there has been a massive construction job with solo contestants that didn't make it to their respective last 8s. This has usefully given another chance to a few who deserve to be there although quite how they'll fare in bands which, from most of the quotes from the judges during the shows, have been decided on how they look together! Good grief. Even as we watched the last of the tears been wiped away at the end of the Bootcamp Show, however, we didn't actually have the full story.

Rhythmix is actually made up of Jade and LeAnn picked from Orion, a band that had been put together by the judges at Bootcamp. Jessie and Perry joined from Faux Pas, which had also been created from solo contestants somewhere along the line. Obviously neither Onion nor Faux Pas had worked and Rhythmix is a much better name anyway. You have to feel sorry for the other contestants in Onion and Faux Pas, though, not just for the names of the bands they were momentarily having to be in but having been given that 'lifeline' in Bootcamp 1 it must have been pretty sad finding half of their band went through and they didn't after all that.

Overs (Louis)

What can I say? Oh dear. Only Louis could possibly look pleased with this strange bunch. Kitty and Carolynn have a lot of potential. Terry and Samantha can sing well but just don't strike me as being the sort of act that sells records other than at Christmas. Johnny is hilarious to watch but surely we're not going to see him in the Live Shows? Joe and JonJo are decent enough blokes but they're lucky to have a free bit of sunshine. And, yes, there's Goldie. As Louis said "I can't imagine a show without Goldie!" That just about sums that up then. at least there's no Wagner.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

X Factor UK: Bootcamp 1 Hello Goodbye

I hadn't realised that there was enough grass in Croydon, South London, for over 200 X Factor contestants in the 186 acts who'd made it through to bootcamp. But there they all were and, on cue, most of them did the jumping up and down bit when the judges arrived in black Jaguars (Ford getting in on the UK act too!)

Once they'd settled down 32 acts learned that they were already at the end of the road which may not have been great news for them but will be a great relief to viewers as they probably shouldn't have been there in the first place. The remaining 150 odd were then split into groups and given one track to perform in Wembley later that evening. Now that was a lot better organised than the American Idol farce when everyone was told to form themselves into groups and we had to watch the ridiculous nonsense of the eventually winner wandering around for virtually the whole of rehearsal time trying to find a bunch of competitors who weren't put off by Baby Lock Then Doors which seemed to be the only song he knew last year. Here in sunny South London each group dutifully went and sat under a tree and, when not being disturbed by Olly or wasps, attempted to put together some kind of performance that might keep them on track for another week.

With only 32 acts scheduled to get to the next stage, judges' houses, though, that's one hell of a lot of people who'll be not making it. Roughly 1 act per group by my calculations. You got the impression they'd done the same sums too as the idea of a 'group' performance was pretty much forgotten by those with any sense and the big personalities just did what they felt like. Occasionally that got really embarrassing: Goldie snaking about and heading in Louis' direction, making his day but spoiling anyone else's. Plenty of other examples but, quite frankly, there's no point listing them as the whole thing is really for the judges to view how people interact and perform and all we get to see is a few seconds' worth of a few people which makes writing anything vaguely intelligent damn difficult.

Something else that is difficult to figure out as we have seen so little of them is the groups. You only had to look at the expression on Gary's face to see that Kendro survive a little longer, or it may have been Two Shoes. The Keys got some airtime and Estrelle a short burst but that was it. A lifeline was thrown to some of those who failed in the the first section - with some manufactured groups being arranged as has become traditional now. Last year's 1 Direction kept us entertained well until the final. That may give people like the previously excellent Derry a chance but hopefully not too many also-rans. The lifeline may be more for the programme's benefit this year as we've seen precious little that looks like coming close to winning so far.

All we can do is wait till tomorrow when we find out who gets through, who gets which categories and we can start to concentrate on the actual potential stars there and who can join Amelia, Misha and Kitty to challenge Frankie and Janet for the prize.

Miami, Melanie, Raisin' Long Horn and Caitlyn Plays Rugby

Something in the water in Miami seems to have given everyone some excessive self-belief. We started with Ashley who even said that she inspired herself but that doesn't say a great deal about how she felt beforehand. The view of the judges' panel seemed to show that Paula had shrunk and Simon had grown which tended to help take one's mind off the family collecting the first performer as she was sent off with four Nos. "Was my performance that bad?" she asked. Interestingly, there was no answer.

The nightmare continued with Chanel who was awful, Kanan Road who were lost somewhere along the way and the bad Dream Girlz themselves and clips of adoring parents or friends saying how great their children or relatives were and confirmed how misguided they all were themselves.

Nicole still hadn't actually said anything on the show until after the sixth act and two ad breaks. Paula was getting tinier by the minute and LA had the look of someone who had applied for a top chauffeur's job and been given a Citroën 2CV. Gloria Estefan tried to rescue Miami's image, which was rapidly descending into the mire, by appearing briefly high up in some seats somewhere but didn't quite have the same effect as Lady Gaga had had last year when singing On the Edge from a similar height on American Idol.

Caitlyn Curtis arrives on stage. I love LA's expression as he says "How old are you? Sixteen? Wow, really?!" thinking that she looked 26. Caitlyn did Taylor Swift and I could see Simon putting her through and then maybe adding her in to one of those manufactured groups that usually get put together for the live shows. However, they didn't like her and we got the real Taylor as background to her departure which was just a little harsh but there you go and there she went.

Nick Voss had one of those big build-ups before an ad break so you kinda knew he'd be OK, especially as there were prepared clips with his parents names subtitled as well. "The next contestant's going to have it hard." says LA. The Equal Opportunities Commission would have been on the phone to sack him immediately in this country. The guy does an animated version of Trouble and Paula shows just why she's so good as a judge with some spot-on advice and comments. Looking at yet another desperate mother shot, though, I can well understand why X Factor UK host Dermot O'Leary is happy to leave the job to the Welshman.

Ashley Deckard says she's 14. "Aren't you cute?" says Paula. Er, no. She talks to ghosts and assures Simon Cowell that she could bring some to the show. She had a brief shot at Price Tag and it nearly worked but her talents as a ghost-bringer were clearly better than as a singer and proven as she was followed by an appalling load of rubbish. In fact, I was beginning to think that the space débris falling through the sky this evening had actually landed on Mirabella in the middle of her performance of Summertime. Somehow they vote her through to bootcamp. Things are not looking good in Miami.

Finally, the producers must have decided that they'd annoyed viewers sufficiently and brought on 2 Squar'd - OK but nothing special, Kendra - tinny at times, Brendan - pleasant chap and much needed in the Over 30s category, someone else who sounded like Joe McElderry (X Factor UK winner 2008) that other boys will like in bootcamp and finally we get someone really good. In fact, really very good. Melanie Amaro was one of the best voices I've heard in a competition for a while. (I honestly did write that before Paula said it!) She gets a standing ovation from all four judges and she'll be in the finals.

From Miami we go to Dallas and expectations were high. "I just love raisin' long horn" isn't the sort of thing you can say on the UK version of the show, though. We saw plenty of low-voiced, laid back guys in big hats and jeans and Dylan in a strange baseball cap. I guess they don't have mirrors out on the ranches. He was pathetic.

Wesley was almost as bad and you could see the production team's work again - give us a load of crap for twenty minutes and then slowly bring us up to some good stuff before the end. Michael and Michelle looked downright ridiculous and Curtis Lawson made us all wonder whether Ashley Deckard had brought the ghosts up from Miami to Dallas, being totally out of this world but not in a good way.

The weep-and-then-feel-good bit came at last with Dexter. Starting with a reasonable James Brown tribute you could see he was going to get through but we'd have the 'Try something else' bit from Simon before he did. He could be another much-needed addition to the Over 30s.

A couple more acts whizzed across the scene and thanked everyone profusely for putting them through but I have no idea why. Caitlyn Koch pronounced her name very clearly as Cook and proceeded to head us closer to the end of the show with a second Wow Factor with an original and immaculate version of Stop In The Name Of Love and it was difficult to tell whether it was that or her looks which blew Simon away. She'll be around for a good time too.

There was a chap called Storm on the UK show last year who Simon insisted on calling Lee and it all got a bit embarrassing. Same again tonight with Zander who really did not want to be called Alexander and, despite the contestant's attitude, Simon's insistence did get a bit tedious after a while. For all that, Zander had a decent voice and, whilst he doesn't stand a chance against two or three of the acts we've seen so far, he deserved the bootcamp place and support they all gave him in the end.

Looking at how massive the queues and crowds have been for these auditions we can surely only be seeing a tiny proportion of who is actually getting through. If Simon doesn't put a fourth Cease and Desist Notice on X Factor Updates' site or tweets as @tvcritics then we'll probably find out soon who actually does make it to the Judges' Houses section. That's when it gets interesting. For now, though, it's entertainment and we do have to remember that one of these people is going to be $5 million better off by Christmas. Have we already seen her, I wonder?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Bugatti, a big truck and X Factor USA sets off in style

So Simon was appeased towards them, and fought no more against them but put them out of the city, and cleansed the houses wherein the idols were and so entered into it with songs and thanksgiving.

Well, that just about sums it up nicely. You may not be familiar with the Book of Maccabees in the Bible Apochrypha but you will have heard of Simon, as in Cowell, who has brought X Factor across the Atlantic to the good people of the United States of America.

It all kicked off in a fine, well-edited style this week - something that won't be quite so easy to organise, sorry, organize, when we get to the live shows.

The man himself appeared with one of the world's fastest and most expensive cars, in black of course, after a strange clip of a Welshman driving a truck across a golden prairie so strongly reminiscent of the Coke Christmas ads that I'm surprised Pepsi haven't demanded equal billing. La Reid and Cheryl Cole were given suitably massive build-ups with reference to millions of sales and artists galore. The fourth judge, Paula, stolen from early Idol panels, was 'someone who had had some hits in the past too'. We all love her, though, and just know she'll be everyone's favourite and is well-equipped to handle Simon should he need restraint.

Rachel Crowe was first on the stage to audition and an excellent choice by the producers. (It took a moment to get over the shot of her little sister stuffing a massive slice of pizza into her mouth, though.) In fact she could have been auditioning as a comedy act on America's Got Talent. She sang Mercy pretty well, although it was slightly worrying watching a 13 year-old wagging a finger at LA Reid and singing about being down on her knees. A pretty cool opening performance for all that and she'll be through to a future show or two, maybe further, if only because she'll also make good TV.

Terrell Carter represented the good looking guy in his late twenties group and impressed Cheryl with his package but not me that much, wobbling around the track and not an obvious No 1 act for Christmas in my book.

Ellona followed for the feisty girl section, trying far too hard and way OTT. Instantly forgettable. Er... who was she?

A young kid called John arrives and sounds pretty groovy for a young kid named John. He could be a contender but we only got a short burst to judge by.

Now here's the wacky section - one amazing dancer and Prince-like singer called Simonze could be worth a second look, combining Adam Lambert with a Circus Act with a bit of Alien thrown in for good measure. Then the fun, or tedium, depending on your view, continued with two old people wailing unrighteously through some completely unhinged melody. Oh dear. Add two idiot youngsters, a tuneless teen with bad attitude and that's more or less the complete X Factor set covered for anyone new to the way the show goes.

A pair of red hot pants appears and you just know that we're back on relatively normal territory again and, sure enough, Simone looks and sings well enough to get everyone except LA on board.

Now, there was a category missing: I'd forgotten the long back story, girl in tears, opportunities missed one. Stacy Francis fitted that slot nicely and put on what could be the best of the first show. She impressed Simon to the extent that he seemed to forget Leona Lewis's audition a few years back and declared Stacy's the best he'd ever heard. Maybe the wailing and uncontrolled screeching near the end didn't sound so bad there as it did through my speakers. The dog next door didn't think much of it either. Still, she'll be through to a few more shows, I reckon.

Silly bloke in silver suit was just boring. Quite what they saw when he dropped the chav trousers (sorry, pants) I have no idea but it made Paula sick. Oddly, they still proceeded to vote with LA Reid alone suggesting that he gets thrown out, something I would have done before he even came on in the first place. As the guy was clearly incapable of singing and just there to make a name for himself I shall not bother to write more. If I'd been putting this programme together then we'd never have seen what Paula saw at all. No bad thing, 'Too late', as Ray Stevens would have said.

Darlene came and went. Marcus looks like a real star - possibly one of two from the whole evening who'll get to the finals - and delivered one excellent Stevie Wonder track and wowed the place big time. Cheryl has now disappeared and Nicole did the dancing with Paula as Marcus looked on suitably pleased with himself and probably more than a little surprised.

In the second half, The Anser (sic) brought a great group act on to the stage with the first Rolling In The Deep cover of what were probably many the judges had had to sit through and mercifully didn't get through to the broadcast. I admire Adele but there are limits. In between countless obligatory references to Nicole's birthday this was a trio that clearly had rehearsed and knew what they were doing. We'll certainly see more of them and, as the subtitles here in the UK showed us Brits, Paula whispered to Nicole that the girls will like that one (that one with the woolly hat and exceedingly white teeth).

Unbelievably long and totally irelevant (or, at least, I hope so) ads for a DIY store both preceded and followed The Anser to help pay for the Bugatti Veyron shot. I would, though, have preferred another load of adverts to the girl who gave us a record six 'No's (four from the judges and two she provided herself, albeit with a couple of question and several exclamation marks) and a couple more forgettable weird acts. Chris delivered the Don't Do Drugs bit then really impressed us with an original bit of work and I fell off the chair laughing at the LA Reid seat slide dance and the expression on his face. Nice job. Not sure what Chris'll do in the Let's sing-a-long-with-Abba round or how they'll get him to perform the bland intro and dance around tracks in white suits à la Idol but he sounded like a star and will be around for a while for sure.

That's it for the first show. A good start. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

It's the year of the girls on X Factor (and manufactured bands)

So we've now seen this year's X Factor winner. Whether it was after a long, drawn-out weepy back story intro or a brief glimpse of Louis leaning forward with his chin virtually on the desk and grinning "Yes" as whoever that was who was flashed before our eyes is yet to be seen.

Another weird show that I can only imagine was put together by some new guy recruited from BGT or deliberately promoted above his level of competence by Simon Cowell anxious to ensure that his X Factor USA compares well when it is aired here on Thursday. A couple of guys performed well and the far better Xtra Factor showed us a girl who apparently has only sung in a bingo hall before who would have fared well if she didn't find herself up against Misha, Janet and Amelia at bootcamp.

The boys seem an odd assortment this year but the ones we liked best may well finish up with some of the girls in manufactured boy and girl bands. And, hey, where the hell were the groups this year? Knowing who seems to have made it through, I fear we're in for a dire time in that department unless the manufacturers have done as good a job as they did with Wand Erection, which I guess is possible but unlikely to provide a winner.

Kitty in the over 25s should survive for a good while if she can regain some love from the public by calming down a bit on the announcements of how great she is. Otherwise she'll go the way of Katie W last year but hopefully give us some good TV moments until she's voted out.

So it's the year of the girls for my money and Dermot will be so pleased to be up on the main stage and well away from the anxious parents and what I suspect will be tears, tears and yet more tears during bootcamp and, worse, the final cut at judges' houses. Get yourselves ready for some heart-wrenching viewing at that stage. Bootcamp will be what bootcamp is - a farce as people try to form groups with people they hardly know and deliver tracks they may well have little interest in but have to do something with to get through. I feel so sorry for anyone with a really individual talent and style who'll have to choose between going with the flow and hoping they get selected regardless of what their new temporary 'group' does and attempting to stand out and getting panned for being inconsiderate or not 'working with the team'.

My guess, though, is that the judges already have a pretty good idea of who they want in the live shows - well, they have actually already decided but I mean in TV time as we see it - and it's largely a matter of who they'll put into those groups that needs to be decided. The next couple of weeks will not be a pretty sight but, of course, it will be unmissable TV and I'll be getting into trouble by writing exactly what I think again.

Check out and by the way, over coming weeks as I've been invited to contribute to their news which should be fun and get me into even more trouble! Yes, Simon, I have been warned. and so has @kirrisdad.

X Factor UK - the slow goes on

Let's start with some good news - has got the @xfactorupdates Twitter account back so something is reasonably right with the world. That's about all, though, as tonight's X Factor show just dragged. A long-winded intro can't exactly have pleased Welsh viewers and we then had to sit through 40 minutes of assorted rubbish shown in full whilst potential live show contestant Melanie appeared and disappeared.

A couple of Johnnies - some Maths guy (who, interestingly, came with young Louis Tomlinson from 1Direction but we had to watch Xtra Factor for that bit of gossip) and a reject from last year who's had a make-over but really desperately needs another that does more than glue his hat - could sing but haven't a hope of getting far.

Dermot O'Leary was conspicuous by his absence, featuring almost solely in a ghastly-looking hug from a fat Essex woman with remarkably straw-like hair. I genuinely felt sorry for him until I saw his tweet from somewhere hundreds of miles away to say that something had fallen on his head. Yes, these are all recorded shows from the summer (remember the summer?) and he's currently concluding the rounds of the judges' houses.

The hug was even more annoying because it came after a couple of heavily spray-tanned Essex girls had been put through to bootcamp (and, I'm afraid, potentially far further). Called 2Shoes, I shall have to think of a suitably amusing and offensive alternative for future weeks as, whilst they could sort of perform reasonably, no self-respecting store or web site will want their pictures displayed within a mile of their front windows or home pages. There are some dodgy acts heading towards our live screens and I really do hope they're not around for long unless that tan gets washed off on Mykonos.

Talking of Mykonos, that's where Tulisa took the groups and then appears to have got really cross that some of the boys and girls, or maybe even boys and boys, decided to, er, practice together at night. Rumour has it than she's even just axed one or two groups for doing what comes naturally. And I thought N-Dubz were pretty much a cool group and Tulisa, of all the judges, would have been the least prissy.

The same rumour has Kelly Rowland banning drink, tobacco and goodness knows what else amongst the girls. How on earth potential stars can conceivably cope with the pressure of being in the last eight in the category, with a 50-50 chance of reaching the live finals and all the fun and cash that that brings as opposed to probably never being heard of again for at least a year without participating in at least one or two nerve-calming bad habits amazes me and all credit to any that survive.

With Gary Barlow stuck somewhere with what looks like a very tedious bunch who probably wouldn't say boo to a goose let alone goo to some booze it could well be that Louis might have the most fun group after all. OK, maybe not.

Anyway, none of this is really what tonight was all about. Basically X Factor was rubbish but Olly and the delightful Caroline, or their producers, turned things around with an excellent Xtra Factor on ITV2. Simon Cowell wandered on and into camera view, chewing on something and looking as if he wished he'd spat it out before being given a bundle of questions to answer on a sofa. He may have been a bit concerned as to how screening both X Factor UK and X Factor USA would fare and the extent to which, especially come AI11 in a week or two as well, we'll reach a point of total domination of reality music competitions on the airwaves. Boy, I shall certainly have my work cut out.

A couple of other groups were shown - Boy V Girl and Brooklyn. Boy V Girl were plain odd, like a couple of cartoon characters. The girl was really pretty, though, and could sing. Not sure about the bloke but they had more going for them than that mushy duo from a year or two back so may be worth watching. Brooklyn looked like cool guys and there aren't many around at the moment, The Keys being a bit serious-sounding. Having said that, we've seen so little of any groups to date whatever happens there is bound to be a surprise. Indeed, we'll probably know who are in the final before actually hearing them for more than 10 seconds at the rate things are moving.

Tomorrow sees the end of the auditions and, quite frankly, that'll be a relief this year. Still, I live in hope and will attempt to tease out some semblance of a live pack afterwards. Take a look at the photos on the show link above - they'll get updated regularly until we finally know who's through.

Friday, September 16, 2011

X factor updates and strange SYCO action [spoiler alert]

Although we've only actually seen a few so far, according to XFactor Updates over 200 hopefuls reached bootcamp this summer (including 16 groups of which we've had little more than a mere glimpse of a couple). They've been whittled down and something around 8 hopefuls in each category headed off to judges' 'houses' for what is probably the most difficult part of the series to watch (and, I'm sure, far more stressful to be part of!)

Gary Barlow has the Boys category, Tulisa has the Groups, Kelly the Girls and Louis, yes, you guessed, the Over 25s. Surprisingly, as these selections should by now have all been recorded, there isn't that much reliable information out there as to who the finalists are - presumably four from each category. News has come through about the boys and a pretty good indication about the girls (being decided today, I think) but the groups and overs lists look a bit on the thin and confusing side at the moment.

It appears that the guy behind XfactorUpdates has had his @xfactorupdates twitter account shut down at SYCO's request. Now, as @tvcritics, his tweets can be pretty caustic at times but always no more than what I imagine a whole load of people will be saying to each other as they watch some programme and often cause me to laugh out really loud and inspire me as @kirrisdad to be as entertaining. He's usually a great source for what's going on but SYCO don't like him or what he says (and presumably accuse him of spoiling).  I mean, how many people are seriously not going to to watch an upcoming show during these few strange weeks of deciding who'll make the live shows? Those who really can't bear to know simply aren't the types who'll be reading his stuff and the numbers who accidentally land on one of his pages or, for that matter, one of mine, are going to be pretty damn small and hardly likely to cause a drop in audience figures that'll have any impact at all on SYCO's advertising slot income.

Anyway, at the risk of getting closed down myself now, the new XFactor UK 2011 tab at the top of this site has some pictures of, how shall I put it, contestants you might like to look out for over the next few weeks ...

The winner ought to be in there somewhere, unless it's one of those mysterious groups or Louis is hiding someone remarkable!

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