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!